SpaceX successfully completes first year of Raptor component testing at Stennis

April 30, 2015

After a productive year at Stennis Space Center, SpaceX officials say they are pleased with the decision to test their rocket engine components in Hancock County.

"Stennis is home to some of the most advanced rocket test facilities in the world and decades of experience developing new engine technologies," said spokesman John Taylor. "We are thrilled to work with this talented group to ensure a rapid and comprehensive test program."

SpaceX has been testing components for its Raptor rocket engine development program, specifically injectors and combustion chambers, with additional components ready for testing in the near future, Taylor said.

Space X and NASA reached an agreement in 2013 that called for the company to revamp the E-2 test stand, which has the specialized high-pressure capability required to test Raptor's components.{cke_protected_1}

"SpaceX has made significant investments upgrading the test hardware at the E complex, investments that will remain for NASA and other private contractors to use at the conclusion of this test effort," said Taylor. "SpaceX has also paid for the use of the stand and of Stennis' talented workforce, representing true private sector investment into the Center."

The number of employees working at Stennis varies, depending on the testing being done; nationwide, SpaceX employs more than 3,500 people.

The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, along with the state of Mississippi, provided assistance to upgrade the facility for SpaceX testing.

"With the strong cooperation of Stennis Space Center, the Mississippi Development Authority and the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, SpaceX was able to begin testing at its facility within months of signing its agreement with NASA and Stennis Space Center," said Taylor.

SpaceX engineers are developing the Raptor as a reusable engine for a heavy-lift launch vehicle. The company's goal is to reach Mars in the next 15 years.

Visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk founded SpaceX - Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - 13 years ago. The California-based company designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. Among its successful missions was in 2012, when its Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to attach to the International Space Station, deliver cargo and return to Earth. The same year SpaceX and NASA signed a $440 million agreement to develop the Dragon spacecraft to transport humans into space. NASA recently chose SpaceX and Boeing for the combined $6.8 billion contract to transport astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017. {cke_protected_5}

"We looked to Stennis to be an R&D test center for the company and will leverage these capabilities to accelerate the Raptor development effort," Taylor said. "In SpaceX's view, Stennis has some of the best high-pressure test stands in the world."

Hancock Port and Harbor Commission Executive Director Ashley Edwards said the success of SpaceX in Hancock County speaks volumes about the county's capacity to attract private-sector aerospace investment.

"The private space industry is booming right now and Hancock County wants to be on the leading edge of that growth," Edwards said. "Last April, we cut the ribbon on SpaceX's new test stand and it has been incredible to watch them have such a successful year in Hancock County.  They are indicative of the types of firms we're trying to attract here - world class companies who are charging ahead into the next generation of deep space exploration."


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