SpaceX to test engine components at Stennis
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014
STENNIS — While the engine is still in the design phase, components of what will be the first methane powered space flight engine will be tested close to Picayune.
Monday, SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell, a private company working on space flight technology, announced at a ribbon-cutting event that the company will test components that will make up their Raptor engine at the E-2 test stand. The stand has received upgrades that make it capable of high pressure testing required to develop the technology that will create the world’s first methane powered rocket engine. She also said, when complete, the new engine should be capable of producing more than a million pounds of thrust.
Testing will begin on a small scale, focusing on injector testing, said Stennis Director Rick Gilbrech. Gilbrech said Stennis is capable of testing the larger components when the company is ready and hopes SpaceX will test them there.
Comparatively speaking, the E-2 test stand is not as impressive as the stand that tested the Space Shuttle engines. But SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell feels the stand is just what the company needs right now.
“What looks like a modest stand is the most capable high pressure test stand on the planet,” Shotwell said.
U.S. Congressman Steven Palazzo, who is also the chair of the space sub committee, said NASA’s budget should focus on sending U.S. astronauts from our own soil using American rockets. Now that the shuttle program has ended, the United States spends $70 million dollars to send one astronaut to the International Space Station.
This is where SpaceX and other companies like it will fill the gap by developing technology in the private sector.
Palazzo said the Dragon Capsule developed by SpaceX has successfully carried supplies to the ISS, and is currently being modified to accommodate astronauts.
“I believe that SpaceX and others like them will one day bring man to Mars and bring him back safely,” said Governor Phil Bryant during the event. “But I know, and you know, they will have to pass through Hancock County to get there.”
While Shotwell did not have specific numbers on how many jobs would ultimately be created with this agreement, she did say so far 15 to 20 people were involved in preparing the E-2 test stand for their needs.
Currently the agreement with Stennis is set to last a year or two, but SpaceX is looking to grow their work, Shotwell said.
As for sending man to Mars, Shotwell said she would like to see that occur within the next 13 to 15 years.