New Research Facility At Stennis Could Mean Millions In Added Revenue

The site at the northeast corner of Stennis was developed for the Advanced Solid Rocket Motor testing. But after Congress pulled the plug on ASRM, it was never used. Now, it's about to become home to the "Star Wars" missile defense research.

"The infrastructure that NASA and the federal government taxpayers invested out there is around $45 million. And it's basically been sitting idle for the last eight years," Patrick Scheuermann with Stennis Space Center says.  "This is a chance to use that investment that's been started."

The project will involve building a research facility roughly the size of two football fields. It will include a 150 foot tall test chamber. About 300 new jobs will be created with the first phase.

"If the program works all the way to fruition, it will probably be somewhere into about a 15 to 20 year program overall. But starting probably in the next year or year and a half, you'll see construction in the next year," Stennis official Bo Clarke says.

This latest announcement is a continuation of the expansion success Stennis experienced last year. In March of 2000, Boeing dedicated a new engine assembly plant here. In September, Lockheed-Martin unveiled plans for an advanced propulsion system, and the US Navy broke ground last fall on a new $25 million technical training center.

The missile defense research center built at the space center will fit in well with the Stennis mission.

"We're going to do what Stennis has typically done in its mission in the past," Scheuermann says. "That's one of the reasons it fits so well. We develop rocket engines prior to flight. And we're going to be developing this space vehicle and make sure all the systems work like it's supposed to before we deploy it."

Stennis faced plenty of competition for the new research site.  It was chosen from among 3,000 potential locations. The location of the program's "Space Qualification Facility" will be decided later and could also be placed at Stennis.