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For more than five decades, John C. Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi has served as NASA’s primary rocket propulsion testing ground. Today, the center provides propulsion test services for NASA and the Department of Defense, as well as the private sector. It is home to NASA’s Rocket Propulsion Test Program, which manages all of the agency’s propulsion test facilities.
State-of-the-art facilities, a seven-and-one-half-mile canal waterway system and the 125,000-acre acoustical buffer zone that surrounds Stennis enable delivery and testing of large-scale rocket stages, engines and components.
Stennis was established in the 1960s to flight-certify all first and second stages of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo manned lunar landing program. From 1975 to 2009, the primary mission was to test the main engines that propelled space shuttle vehicles on their eight-and-one-half-minute ascent into orbit.
Stennis now is testing RS-25 engines (modified space shuttle main engines) that will power the core stage of NASA’s new Space Launch System. The center also is working with commercial companies to meet their rocket propulsion testing needs. Stennis’ state-of-the-art facilities include three test complexes. The newest of these, the E Test Complex, provides a particularly versatile option for testing a range of engines and components.
Stennis’ Applied Science and Technology Project Office uses NASA-generated science research, remote sensing and other technical capabilities to support research efforts by partner agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For instance, Stennis scientists use remote sensing technologies and their expertise in rapid prototyping to expand and improve hurricane prediction capabilities. They also focus on coastal management, an important consideration for the entire Gulf Coast region and one of NASA’s national science priorities.
Through the Office of the Chief Technologist, engineers and researchers at Stennis work to transfer NASA-developed technologies to the commercial sector to help improve the economic strength of the United States and the quality of life for its citizens.
Stennis is home for the NASA Shared Services Center, which provides the national agency with centralized administrative processing services and customer contact center operations. The work performed by the center frees agency resources that can then be redirected to NASA’s core mission.
The center also hosts a number of federal, state, academic and private organizations and several technology-based companies that share the cost of owning and operating the facility, making it more cost-effective for each agency to accomplish its independent mission. These include such organizations as the Lockheed Martin Mississippi Space and Technology Center, the Rolls-Royce North America Outdoor Jet Engine Testing Facility and the Aerojet Rocketdyne rocket engine assembly facility.
The Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, the largest concentration of oceanographers in the world, is headquartered at Stennis, along with the Naval Research Laboratory, the Navy’s corporate laboratory. Stennis is the riverine warfare training ground for the Department of Defense’s Special Boat Team TWENTYTWO, the headquarters of the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School and Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center.
With its effective cost-sharing philosophy, state-of-the-art test facilities, highly-trained and professional workforce, and commitment to safety and customer satisfaction, Stennis is a model of government efficiency, providing American taxpayers positive returns on their investments.
NASA has a workforce of about 2,000 civil servants and contractors, part of the center’s total workforce of 5,000 – plus. The center has a strong influence on the economy of surrounding communities. Its community involvement includes various outreach activities, participation in the Combined Federal Campaign fundraising drive, hosting the area’s annual Special Olympics and support of the annual Feds Feed Families food drive.
Bus tours of America’s largest rocket engine test complex originate at INFINITY Science Center at I-10, Exit 2, which features a variety of Stennis related displays, hands-on activities and space artifacts and memorabilia.