Hancock County is the cornerstone of Mississippi’s aerospace industry

April 1, 2022

Positioned in a strategic geographic location of the Gulf Coast, Stennis Space Center is the nation’s premier rocket testing facility with a 125,000-acre buffer zone. Adjacent to the buffer zone is Stennis International Airport (KSA), a general aviation airport with an 8,500-foot runway rated for the world’s largest aircraft.

“Few communities offer the assets and expertise that is available in Hancock County,” said Janel Carothers, Chief Economic Development Officer for Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission (HCPHC). “For sixty years, the path to space has started in Hancock County with rocket testing at Stennis Space Center.”

That tradition of excellence continues with some of today’s most innovative aerospace companies having a footprint in Hancock County. Aerojet Rocketdyne, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Relativity Space, Rolls-Royce, Boeing and Tyonek Services Group all have a presence. Other companies, such as SpaceX, Virgin Orbit, Blue Origin, Ursa Major, Launcher, and Firehawk also take advantage of the rocket testing infrastructure.

In 2021 at Stennis Space Center, rocket engine testing featured 11 test campaigns, including seven NASA-led projects, on eight test stands. The year’s activity totaled 434 tests and 7,341 seconds of cumulative firing time, according to NASA.

Because of its surrounding 125,000-acre acoustical buffer zone, Stennis has the ability to conduct rocket engine and stage testing 24/7, 365 days a year, without disturbing neighbors. As a result, Stennis – and Hancock County - is the front end of the critical path for the future of space exploration.

At HCPHC, 34,000 square feet of hangar space was brought online last year at Stennis International Airport. This year, several capital improvements are planned, including a 40-acre technology park, a multi-user aerostrip for UAS operations, and site development for future hangars. With 1,200 acres of developable land, there is room to grow at the airport.

A Launch Site Operator License application has also been filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which would enable horizontally deployed reusable launch vehicles to operate at the airport.

All the advantages of Hancock County position companies for success by matching them with unparalleled sites and infrastructure, cost-saving opportunities, and especially with next-generation talent.

Hancock County draws from a labor pool of 1.5 million people. There are 21 university or community colleges within an hour’s drive, including Pearl River Community College which will build the Hancock Aviation and Aerospace Workforce Academy to ensure a pipeline of skilled workers. The 26,000-square-foot academy and 18,000-square-foot training hangar are being built at Stennis INternatioal Airport.

Hancock County remains committed to fostering investment in business, infrastructure and talent to remain the cornerstone of Mississippi’s aerospace industry. With HCPHC and its partners, industry benefits from client-focused programs for additional growth and investment in innovation, sites and talent.