NASA is expanding its Constellation Program and the changes start in South Mississippi.
NASA is developing new spacecraft that will transport humans and cargo to the moon and Stennis Space Center will be the premier testing site for the new rocket engine.
"The A-3 Test Stand was selected by NASA as a stand to do altitude testing of the new J2X Engine for the Constellation program which will be the upper stage engine for both the Aries 1 and the Ares 5," says Gene Goldman, Deputy Center Director at Stennis Space Center.
Stennis is currently the home to the Apollo test stands which have served the nation's space program through the shuttle era. The new test stand will allow engineers to simulate conditions beyond sea level.
"It will test the engine at 100,000 foot altitude which we have no other capability in this nation for," says Goldman.
"It's certainly a historical moment at Stennis. It's the first time we've built a large stand since the 1960s," says Lonnie Dutreix, Stennis' Project Formulation Manager.
Construction on the $170 million project is set to begin later this year. But engineers at Stennis are already excited about their new role in space exploration.
"We've come in on the heels of the shuttle program, the Apollo Program and all the guys that have participated since the beginning of that. Now it's our turn to go build new stands, activate new facilities with the new exploration vision," Dutreix said.
Leaders say the new center will be up and running by 2010, making history across the nation and right here in South Mississippi. While the new stand will be ready for testing in 2010, NASA doesn't plan to use the "Ares One" launch vehicle until 2015.