NASA To Build New Engine Test Stand At Stennis

NASA announced plans on Monday to build a new engine test stand at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County. The announcement represents an estimated $175 million investment in Stennis and serves to support the Constellation Project. That's NASA's plan to return the United States to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

The new stand at Stennis will test NASA's J-2X engines, which will be used in the second stage of the Ares I launch vehicle. NASA officials say the new 300-foot-tall open-frame design will allow engineers to simulate conditions at different altitudes. The new stand will be completed in time to support the first J-2X engine test in December 2010.

Stennis is already home to the Apollo-era test stands which are still currently used. An existing test stand at Stennis also is being modified to test the J-2X engine at sea level conditions.

The proposed new structure will be the first large test stand built at the center since the 1960s.

"The Apollo-era test stands have served us well over the last 40 years, and I'm excited that NASA will have a new stand to take us into the next 40 years as we aspire to return to the moon and eventually land a human on Mars," said SSC Director Richard J. Gilbrech.

"This announcement is mutually beneficial for NASA, Mississippi and the nation in promoting the United States' goal of returning man to the moon," Senator Thad Cochran said.  "The new test stand will allow Stennis Space Center to continue its historically significant role in NASA's rocket engine testing and remain a prominent hub of technical activity and skilled jobs in Mississippi."

Senator Trent Lott said, "This decision helps cement Stennis Space Center's future as the nation's premier rocket testing facility.  Stennis Space Center is indeed a catalyst for Mississippi's job growth, particularly as part of our state's growing aerospace industry.  The research and development activity taking place at Stennis certainly complements Mississippi's effort to provide more high-tech, skilled employment opportunities for Mississippians."