Hancock County, MS | P.O. Box 2267 Bay St. Louis, MS 39521 | 706 Highway 90 | Waveland, Mississippi 39576 | Toll Free: 800.558.1658  | Phone: 228.467.9231 | Fax: 228.467.9341
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Hancock High grad now tests rockets that may revolutionize space travel

February 25, 2019

Hancock County, Mississippi, Jon Oliver dreamed of working at Hancock County, Mississippi’s Stennis Space Center (SSC).

“I’ve always really enjoyed the aerospace industry,” said Oliver, who graduated with Hancock High School’s class of 2001. “Growing up here in this area, you always heard about Stennis Space Center and you always heard about the space shuttle engines that were tested here. It’s always been a part of my curiosity.”

Oliver went on to earn a master’s degree in engineering at the University of Southern Mississippi.

When Stennis signed a first-of-its-kind lease in spring 2018 with aerospace manufacturer Relativity Space under the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA), a position opened that fit Oliver’s talents and vision. In May, he signed on as lead data and control-systems engineer. He was one of several experts hired from SpaceX, the revolutionary rocketry company led by Tesla founder Elon Musk.

Both firms are competing for a share of the commercial space economy, though their approaches are worlds apart.

SpaceX builds its rockets the traditional way, assembling them in California from parts produced across the U.S. and launching them from either Cape Canaveral, Florida, or Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Relativity prints (yes, prints) its rockets and engines with a giant 3-D metal printer at its plant near Los Angeles International Airport. It plans to ship a finished engine to Stennis, where Oliver and his team will test-fire it.

Oliver is responsible for the systems that record everything that happens with each component when it is fired. He also oversees the software that controls the test and allows the test operators to communicate with the test stand.

Relativity’s goal is to build an aerospace game changer: A safer, less-complicated and less-expensive rocket. It reports its process “cuts rocket-part count by 100 times and enables rockets to be built in days instead of years.”

It is the perfect job for Oliver, who calls himself a “tinkerer.” Mentors at SpaceX and at his first job, aircraft-engine manufacturer Continental Motors in Mobile, Alabama, pushed him to take a chance on aerospace — a chance to tinker on a grand scale.

“Relativity is challenging the status quo for the aerospace industry,” he said. “That was something that really interested me.”

About Relativity Space

Relativity is the first autonomous rocket factory and launch services leader for satellite constellations. The company’s vision is to build the future of humanity in space--starting with rockets. Relativity’s platform vertically integrates intelligent robotics and 3D autonomous manufacturing technology to build the world’s first entirely 3D printed rocket, Terran 1. Terran 1 has 100x lower part count than traditional rockets, a radically simple supply chain, and is built from raw material to flight in less than 60 days with unparalleled iteration speed. Relativity deploys and resupplies satellite constellations with industry-defining lead time, flexibility, and cost, better connecting and securing our planet.

Relativity is backed by leading investors including Playground Global, Y Combinator, Social Capital, Phillip Spector formerly of Intelsat, and Mark Cuban. For more information, please visit https://www.relativityspace.com/.


As the economic development authority for Hancock County, Mississippi, the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission owns and operates Port Bienville Industrial Park and Stennis International Airport — in addition to fostering business investment for John C. Stennis Space Center, NASA’s premier rocket testing facility. For more information, visit www.portairspace.com.

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