SpaceX to Conduct Raptor Engine Testing in Mississippi

An AJ26 engine on a test stand at NASA Stennis.
An AJ26 engine on a test stand at NASA Stennis.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sen. Cochran PR) – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today said the agreement signed today between the State of Mississippi and the commercial space company SpaceX bodes well for future job growth at and around NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.

Cochran commended the accord which will involve SpaceX investing in the E-2 test stand at Stennis to support engine research, development and testing of the firm’s Raptor methane rocket engines.  The agreement, signed by Governor Phil Bryant, also involved the Mississippi Development Authority, Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission and NASA.

“We have been talking with SpaceX for many years about working at Stennis Space Center, and I am pleased to officially welcome them to our Mississippi family.  I hope this is just the beginning of their endeavors in our state,” Cochran said. “Our state wins through this beneficial public-private contract that will enhance the Space Center’s historic role in rocket engine testing and as a center for technical activity and skilled jobs.”

“I appreciate all the good work put into reaching this agreement, including the efforts of Governor Bryant, the Mississippi Development Authority and local leaders in South Mississippi.  It is proof that we have a team in place that helps make Mississippi a great place to do business,” he said.

As a long standing member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Cochran has worked hard to ensure that Stennis Space Center has the assets necessary to support both government and private-sector missions.  In recent years, Cochran has supported appropriations measures to upgrade aging Stennis infrastructure, including resources for the E-complex that SpaceX will be further outfitting for methane rocket experiments.

In addition to his work on the E-complex, Cochran authored a FY2012 appropriations provision requiring NASA to examine and report on the condition and necessity of the massive B-2 test stand, which is used by NASA for large rocket engine systems tests.  That report elicited a NASA decision to request $12 million in FY2012 appropriations to initiate the rehabilitation and reuse of the existing B-2 test stand to support the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) program.  The NASA report also identified a need for further upgrades to the B-2 stand and led to Cochran successfully securing $168 million in FY2013 funding to keep the B-2 test stand upgrade on schedule for the development of SLS.

Cochran was also closely involved in crafting the 2010 NASA Reauthorization Act, through which Congress directed the commencement of the SLS program to replace the Space Shuttle program.

“A robust test infrastructure is important to ensuring future astronauts will be as safe as possible when they climb aboard the next generation of rockets,” Cochran said. “Stronger testing saves money in the long run, and there’s no better place in the world to test rocket engines than Hancock County, Mississippi.”