Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday traveled to INFINITY and beyond, announcing a new Mississippi Space Initiative that will help the state stay on the cutting edge of aerospace technology; and create the state's own "Space Force."
Bryant announced a new economic development Space Initiative and the formation of the Mississippi National Guard Space Directorate at the INFINITY Science Center in Hancock County on Monday.
“I am extremely excited about the two initiatives announced today,” Bryant said. “Mississippi has been a leader in the field of space for many years and I believe that we have the capabilities to attract other space companies to invest in the state and the ability through our National Guard to use space technology to aid in defense and disaster response.”
He said the purpose of establishing this Space Initiative is to create a specific entity to target space companies and attract them to the state.
Patrick Scheuermann, former head of Stennis Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center, will be leading the initiative, the governor said.
“The state of Mississippi has a long history of making key investments at Stennis Space Center to attract government, university and commercial customers to the Federal City,” Dr. Rick Gilbrech, the Director of Stennis Space Center said. “The new initiatives the governor announced today will continue that tradition and bolster the Gulf Coast’s involvement in both civil, commercial and military space activities. These continued and future partnerships will also help NASA to achieve its objective with the Artemis mission to go forward to the Moon by 2024 and then on to Mars.”
The Mississippi National Guard Space Directorate will be commanded by Col. Billy Murphy of the Mississippi Air National Guard’s 186th Air Operations Group, Bryant said. He will integrate with current Space Commands, NASA, higher education institutions and aerospace industry partners.
Murphy will also develop a Space Task Force that will be responsible for conducting space operations. This Space Force will help ensure Mississippi’s and the United States’ success in the domain of space, Bryant said. It aligns with President Donald Trump’s Space Force initiative and will be used to create and utilize space technology to develop defense and disaster response strategies.
“The Mississippi National Guard is extremely confident that we can grow the space mission here in Mississippi to meet the needs of our nation and state,” said Maj. Gen. Boyles, Adjutant General of the Mississippi National Guard.
The event was attended by elected officials, Stennis Space Center Staff, Relativity Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Jordan Noone, and business executives from around the state.
Bryant gave special praise to Noone and Relativity at Monday's press conference. The Los Angeles-based company announced three weeks ago that it will set up shop at the old Ammunition plant at Stennis Space Center to create the world's first and only autonomous 3D printed rocket manufacturing facility.
Noone, 26, said Stennis is the only place in the country where Relativity could test engines 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Relativity's Stennis operation should employ about 190 people within the first few months, Noone said.
"“The two announcements Gov. Bryant made today are strong signals to our nation that the state of Mississippi is serious about space," U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker said in a press release. "These new commitments will ensure that the road to space continues to go through Mississippi. I am anticipating many more great accomplishments by the talented teams at Stennis Space Center and Mississippi’s Air National Guard.”
Congressman Steven Palazzo also praised the initiatives: “Given Mississippi’s history in space exploration," Palazzo said in a release, "I applaud Gov. Bryant for being a forward thinker on ways that Mississippi can continue playing a role in American space missions. The Mississippi National Guard is always there to support critical military operations and I’ve no doubt they will make important contributions to our nation’s security in space through the formation of the space directorate.”