SpaceX picks SSC to test new engines
Oct. 23, 2013
...STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – SpaceX, the first commercial company to fly a cargo
mission to the International Space Station, has chosen John C. Stennis Space Center for
initial testing of its new Raptor methane rocket engines.
...Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant made the announcement Wednesday that adds another
commercial company to the growing lineup of spaceflight companies that have operations
at Stennis Space Center (SSC), NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility.
...SpaceX, of Hawthorne, Calif., will use SSC’s E-2 test stand for research and
development of its methane rocket engines, which are capable of generating nearly 300
tons of thrust. Mississippi Development Authority and the Hancock County Port and
Harbor Commission will provide assistance for the stand improvements.
...Once upgrades are completed, the stand will be one of the most sophisticated high-
pressure testing facilities in the world capable of supporting many potential users, and will
remain the property of SSC for future use as needed. Testing will begin in early 2014,
according to a release from the governor's office.
..."With our rich history of supporting America's space program, the state of Mississippi is
an excellent choice for this type of innovative testing and aerospace technology," Bryant
said. "This agreement marks our continued commitment to our nation's space program
and ongoing efforts to bring new opportunities to Stennis Space Center and the state of
Mississippi."
..."This agreement supports SpaceX's efforts for continued engine research and
development in parallel with our growing operational testing programs,” said Gwynne
Shotwell, SpaceX president. "We are excited to bring this R&D program to Stennis, and we
look forward to a long term relationship with the center and the state of Mississippi."
..."We are pleased that SpaceX has chosen the unique capabilities at Stennis for
research and development testing of their new Raptor engine components,” said Rick
Gilbrech, Stennis center director.
...SpaceX is one of the commercial companies that have contracts with NASA to deliver
supplies to the International Space Station. It made the first delivery in May 2012 with its
Dragon capsule, launched atop a Falcon 9. SpaceX's newest engine, Raptor, is under
development for a higher performance upper stage for SpaceX launch vehicles. It will be
powered by methane and liquid oxygen.
...SSC is NASA’s most capable rocket engine test facility. Established in the 1960s, the
14,000-acre secure complex is surrounded by a 125,000-acre heavily wooded buffer zone
and can test engines 24/7.
...It's home to NASA's Rocket Propulsion Test Program, which manages all of the agency’s
propulsion test facilities. It tests engines not only for NASA and the Defense Department,
but for commercial companies. NASA has nine rocket engine test stands at SSC, and
Rolls-Royce North America has two jetliner engine test stands.
...Another commercial company that just last week flew its first resupply mission to the ISS,
Orbital Sciences, of Dulles, Va., tests AJ26 engines at SSC that power the Antares launch
vehicle. Blue Origin, of Kent, Wash., also has tested its thrust chamber at SSC.
...SSC has long been known as a federal city. It's home to more than 30 federal and state
operations, along with commercial companies. Lockheed Martin does satellite work at its
facility, and Aerojet Rocketdyne assembles and tests RS-68 engines used in the United
Launch Alliance space launch systems. Rocketdyne also assembles and tests the J-2X
that will be used in the upper stage of the heavy launch version of the Space Launch
System (SLS), and will also test the RS-25 engines, the former Space Shuttle Main
Engines, that will be used in all variants of SLS.
...Rolls-Royce, which provides jetliner engines for Boeing and Airbus, just last week
opened its second engine test stand at SSC. It opened its first engine test stand in 2007.
--
David Tortorano, GCAC, 10/23/13

For a background story on SSC, see Chapter III, Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2013-
2014.