An April 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., marked the beginning of a new NASA and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) partnership aimed at continuing to propel America’s burgeoning commercial space program forward and enhance utilization of NASA’s advanced test facilities. Several Mississippi leaders joined NASA and SpaceX representatives for the ceremony including Gov. Phil Bryant, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo.
SpaceX signed a Space Act Agreement with the space agency last fall to test components of its methane-fueled Raptor rocket engine on the E-2 Test Stand at Stennis. SpaceX is developing the Raptor as a reusable engine for a heavy-lift launch vehicle.
“This is a great partnership between NASA and SpaceX,” Stennis Center Director Rick Gilbrech said. “These types of activities are opening new doors of commercial space exploration for companies. SpaceX is another example of the outstanding progress America’s commercial space industry is making, and we are happy to welcome them as our newest commercial test customer.”
Since the fall, Stennis has performed necessary maintenance to prepare the test stand and completed equipment modifications needed to accommodate Raptor components.
With preparations complete, the ribbon-cutting ceremony paves the way for testing which is scheduled to begin within a month.
“SpaceX is proud to bring the Raptor testing program to NASA’s Stennis Space Center and the great state of Mississippi,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX. "In partnership with NASA, SpaceX has helped create one of the most advanced engine testing facilities in the world, and we look forward to putting the stand to good use.”
The Mississippi Development Authority and the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission played key roles in the endeavor by fostering and supporting the new partnership.
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