Hancock County's Stennis Space Center will continue testing the engines this year that are at the core of NASA's plans to go to deep space.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden gave his annual "State of NASA" report Monday from Florida's Kennedy Space Center - but he managed to put in a plug for Mississippi's Stennis, where engine testing has been done since the earliest days of the space program.
"Folk down at Stennis, I know what you're saying - hope he'll say, 'Nothing goes through space until it goes through Mississippi,'" he said. "So if you're waiting for me to say it - I said it."
Bolden noted Stennis just completed initial testing of the RS-25 engine. Four of these engines will power the new Space Launch System, which NASA says will take American rockets to deep space – eventually, even, humans to Mars.
Stennis Deputy Director Jerry Cook says testing of the RS-25 engines will continue later this year after some infrastructure work is completed.
"We’re replacing some of our industrial high-pressure water lines, which are 96-inch diameter water lines that feed the entire test complex," he says. "Starting in April, we’ll resume with the RS-25 tests. We have seven to 10 tests planned for the remainder of this year that are just part of Space Launch System. That doesn’t include the testing we’re doing for our commercial partners."
President Obama's budget request includes $18.5 billion for NASA, a half billion more than last year’s enacted budget. Cook says Stennis's proposed budget is $143 million.
"We saw a slight change due to some of our construction projects that were ongoing, because we’ve completed those, but it’s pretty much right in line with what we’ve had the past few years," he says.
Cook says the center also receives close to $100 million in reimbursable work, such as the testing it does for commercial companies, bringing its total annual budget for next year to about $240 million.