NASA faces scrutiny over Stennis test stand projects

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - NASA is facing scrutiny over millions of dollars spent on two rocket test stands at Stennis Space Center. A report in Bloomberg news questions money spent to finish the A-3 test stand project, while a report from NASA's own auditor raises concerns about $350 million spent to refurbish the B-2.

NASA will soon finish work on the $350 million A-3 rocket test stand. Trouble is, that stand is no longer needed, since the Obama administration canceled the Constellation program, for which the test stand was built

A Bloomberg news report raises concerns about spending millions to finish what it labels a "useless structure."

NASA released a statement through Stennis, which says in part: "As we prepare for the future exploration in a constrained budget environment, the agency is working to ensure we have the right skills, facilities and equipment to execute our missions, and NASA is taking steps to manage its infrastructure."

Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker helped push through the $57 million needed to finish the A-3.

In a prepared statement he said: "Stennis Space Center is the nation's premier rocket engine testing facility. It is a magnet for public and private research investment because of infrastructure projects like the A-3 test stand. In 2010, I authored an amendment to require the completion of that particular project, ensuring the Stennis facility is prepared for ever-changing technologies and demands."

NASA's Office of Inspector General raises takes issue with spending $352 million to refurbish the B-2 test stand at Stennis in support of the Space Launch System.

The 40 page report says NASA ignored its own rules in choosing Stennis, when cheaper alternatives were available sooner in Alabama and California.

South Mississippi Congressman Steven Palazzo, defends the choice.

"Stennis is the obvious choice when you're testing rocket engines, to test them at one of the premier facilities in the world. And that just happens to be in South Mississippi," said Congressman Palazzo.

The congressman, who chairs the space subcommittee, says keep in mind that NASA made the request to refurbish the B-2.

"And so I believe these people are in charge of making sure that we maintain our preeminence in space. I think they have the information at their hands to make the right decision," he said.

Congressman Palazzo says Stennis also makes the most sense from a safety standpoint, given the enormous buffer zone around the site.

NASA says the inspector general provided recommendations to improve its policies for test stand selection requirements. The space agency says it has begun taking steps to address all of those recommendations.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved