Stennis Space Center looks to the future - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Stennis Space Center looks to the future

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HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

It was show and tell at Hancock County's Stennis Space Center Thursday. During a community breakfast briefing, leaders shared some of what is in NASA's future and the role Stennis workers will play.

It was also a chance for the Naval Oceanography Command at Stennis to unveil plans to add some muscle to its supercomputing powers.

NASA's next big mission will be to blast a rocket 3,600 miles above the Earth's surface.

"We're actually going to launch an experimental flight test on an air force Delta rocket this year with the Orion Capsule on it. We are going to go flying around the Earth in a high elliptical orbit," said Stennis Space Center Director Dr. Rick Gilbrech.

Workers at Stennis will play a key role in getting that rocket off the ground.

"The things we're testing right now are the upper stage engines which could potentially power the upper stage of that rocket. Then we're going to be testing the engines that are on the bottom, those four engines that are inside of the solid rocket boosters. We will test the full stage in 2016."

During the community breakfast briefing, the Naval Oceanography Command announced plans to upgrade its supercomputing power.

"The supercomputing capability that we have right now is within the top 50 out of the top 500 in the world. With the new purchases that we're going to get this year and the new computers we put on line it will be within the top 20," said Bill Burnett, Deputy Commander of the Navy Oceanography Command.

At one time the Department of Defense supercomputer ranked 10th in the world. Right now China boasts the world's fastest supercomputer.

"More computing capability on supercomputer machines gives us more capability in Naval Oceanography, and we turn that around and run some of the best oceanographic models in the world," said Burnett.

The supercomputers will be named after naval officers who are also NASA astronauts.

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