Space Crusaders: SpaceX opens new engine test stand at Stennis
By Dwayne Bremer
Apr 22, 2014, 18:03
From left. Gov. Phil Bryant, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell, U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo and Stennis Space Center Director Rick Gilbrech on Monday cut the ribbon for the new SpaceX project at the Stennis Space Center. SpaceX will be conducting rocket testing using the NASA facility.
The path to space will once again pass through Hancock County as the private company SpaceX announced Monday that it will begin testing its new Raptor methane-powered engines at John C. Stennis Space Center's E2 rocket-testing stand.
Officials from SpaceX, a California-based space transportation company, NASA, and state and federal leaders cut the ribbon on the new project on Monday.
"I believe SpaceX, with the help of NASA, will one day take a person to Mars," Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said Monday. "If they do, they will have to pass through Hancock County to get there."
SpaceX recently signed an agreement with NASA to use the testing stands to develop its rockets.
The facility will remain the property of NASA.
The commercial market provides an alternative to the government in development of manned delivery systems, officials said.
Stennis Space Center Rick Gilbrech said Monday that Stennis is no stranger to commercial testing.
"We have been in the commercial market for over a decade," he said. "We are very pleased to welcome SpaceX."
Last week, SpaceX conducted its first flight test of it Falcon 9 reusable rockets. The rocket returned to earth safely and landed without a hitch, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said Monday.
Shotwell said her company wants to continue improving its rockets and the E2 site provides the place.
She said her company hopes to begin manned space flights within 15 years.
"We want to be very aggressive," she said.
Since the end of the Space Shuttle program a few years ago, NASA has not returned men to space on an American delivery system, officials said.
Currently, the Untied States rents a space from Russia on the International Space Center from Russia.
U.S. Rep Steven Palazzo, who is the chairman of the space sub-committee, said returning to space on our own is a "top priority."
"It is not only a matter of national pride, but national security," he said.
Shotwell said the program has already employed about 20 people and many more will be employed over the next few years.
The improvements to the E2 testing stand have been completed and testing could begin "within a few days," she said.
"This is just the start of our ever-growing partnership with NASA," she said. "The E2 stand is one of the most capable high-pressure testing facilities in the world."