Stennis Center Embarks On New Era Of Space Program
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An aerial photo of Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.

Stennis Space Center in Hancock County is remaining busy as the space program enters a new era. The rocket engine test complex has an economic impact of more than $600 million dollars on the surrounding community.

About $200 million of Stennis's self-reported local economic impact stems from NASA, which directly or through contractors, had 2,000 workers at Stennis last year.

Stennis Space Center director Rick Gilbrech says this year looks promising for the space agency too.

"Our budget for 2014 came in at $17.6 billion, which is only $100 million underneath the President's request, so that was really good news for us," he says. "We're waiting on the final numbers but it will be as good a year this year, if not better, than 2013."

Stennis will begin testing engines this year for one of NASA's central programs, the space launch system. It's also working with private companies to test engines for commercial space travel, including cargo flights to the space station.

Gilbrech said at a community briefing yesterday, in 2013, Stennis conducted a total of 39 tests for 8,000 seconds of hot-fire duration.

"It wasn't as quite as busy as some of the days in the shuttle program, but the number of tests and the different types of engines was far exceeding what we've done before," he says.

Mississippi Fourth District Congressman Steven Palazzo is chair of the House subcommittee on space. He says the recent omnibus budget restored about $1 billion dollars of sequestration cuts to the space agency’s budget, but the funding overall remains flat.

About two-thirds of Stennis’s $619-million dollar economic impact was in Mississippi; the other third in Louisiana.