SpaceX Signs Pact To Start Rocket Testing At NASA Stennis

SpaceX — the maker and operator of the Dragon spacecraft that runs periodic cargo flights to the International Space Station — has signed a contract to research, develop and test Raptor methane rocket engines at the NASA Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi.

The California-based company plans to use the E-2 test stand at Stennis, which is able to support both vertical and horizontal rocket engine tests. (Here are some more technical details from NASA on its capabilities.)

“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,” stated U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss) in response to the news. A press release from his office said the presence of the private space company would boost jobs in the region.

The E-2 test stand at NASA Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi. The stand is used for vertical and horizontal rocket engine tests, among other things. Credit: NASA
The E-2 test stand at NASA Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi. The stand is used for vertical and horizontal rocket engine tests, among other things. Credit: NASA

There’s little information on SpaceX’s website about what the Raptor engine is or specific development plans, but Space News reports that it would be used for deep-space missions. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has mentioned the engine previously when talking about Mars missions, according to multiple media reports.

“We are looking to test the whole engine at Stennis, but the first phase starts with the components,” SpaceX spokesperson Emily Shanklin said in the Space News report. “The E-2 stand at Stennis is big enough for components, but we would need a bigger stand for the whole Raptor.”

The two sides are reportedly hashing out a Space Act agreement to establish user fees and other parameters. Once that’s finished, the testing will begin, perhaps as early as next year. SpaceX currently does most of its rocket testing in Texas.

Other parties in the agreement — which was signed by Governor Phil Bryant — include the Mississippi Development Authority, the Harbor Commission and Hancock County Port.

6 Replies to “SpaceX Signs Pact To Start Rocket Testing At NASA Stennis”

  1. SpaceX already has state of the art rocket engine test facilities in it’s McGregor facility….
    But with a decadent and failed Cold War legacy Federal Agency Nasa, our Govt throws pork taxpayer $millions at SpaceX to try to give meaning to dead wood Nasa facilities like Stennis….

    1. Well SpaceX has faced all kinds of resistance in Congress. This I believe is their attempt to appease the member of congress in the traditional “space states” with some jobs for them.

      And it may also just make sense to test the Raptor there. Considering how different the 2 rocket motors are.

      1. Jimi
        I agree that picking up $s thrown away by our drunken sailor of a Federal Govt is not immoral…
        However, I find it sad that some accept this pork as acceptable.. ‘business as usual’..
        As a taxpayer and space enthusiast, I want my tax money spent rationally… not more wasteful inefficient Nasa pork to buy jobs in one area which could be done more efficiently in another area.
        And I am very concerned about SpaceX getting corrupted by Govt until it is just as inefficient, stupid, unproductive as Nasa is.

      2. Being productive is a choice SpaceX made at its inception and continues to make. Its sad they have to stroke a few politicians to get things done but (at the moment) they have to live in this world.

  2. “”We have essentially no patents in SpaceX. Our primary long-term competition is in China,” said Musk in the interview. “If we published patents, it would be farcical, because the Chinese would just use them as a recipe book.”

    Competition is China, not ULA, not Boeing, perhaps not even NASA, there’s still time for the lesson to be learned,

  3. Stennis already has multiple stands there so I think it is a logical choice for Space X to test their new rocket there. Stennis is the largest rocket test facility in the world I believe and Rolls Royce just built a new test stand for their new jet rocket. I believe Stennis also has the largest buffer zone for when they tested the Apollo rockets there so you won’t have to hear people in Texas complain about the noise. Plus yes Mississippi could really use the jobs.

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