Wednesday, October 23, 2013

SpaceX Takes a Stand

A January 2007 image of the Stennis Space Center E-2 Test Stand. Image source: Industrial Corrosion Control.

One of the most surprising aspects of today's SpaceX announcement was that it came from the office of a U.S. Senator.

A press release by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) announced that SpaceX has leased Test Stand E-2 at NASA's Stennis Space Center to help develop its Raptor methane-powered rocket engine.

According to the press release:

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today said the agreement signed today between the State of Mississippi and the commercial space company SpaceX bodes well for future job growth at and around NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.

Cochran commended the accord which will involve SpaceX investing in the E-2 test stand at Stennis to support engine research, development and testing of the firm’s Raptor methane rocket engines. The agreement, signed by Governor Phil Bryant, also involved the Mississippi Development Authority, Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission and NASA.

“We have been talking with SpaceX for many years about working at Stennis Space Center, and I am pleased to officially welcome them to our Mississippi family. I hope this is just the beginning of their endeavors in our state,” Cochran said. “Our state wins through this beneficial public-private contract that will enhance the Space Center’s historic role in rocket engine testing and as a center for technical activity and skilled jobs.”

As reflexively as your knee jerking when your doctor hits it with a plexor, the Senator bragged about the jobs it would bring to his state.

The very last paragraph of the release had the important part:

“A robust test infrastructure is important to ensuring future astronauts will be as safe as possible when they climb aboard the next generation of rockets,” Cochran said. “Stronger testing saves money in the long run, and there’s no better place in the world to test rocket engines than Hancock County, Mississippi.&rduqo;

Jobs come before safety in the Senator's press release, but nothing new there.

With SpaceX already occupying government military launch complexes at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg, and a lease pending for Kennedy Space Center's pad 39A, the Stennis lease gives SpaceX yet another member of Congress who is now compromised by the presence of a NewSpace company in his district or state.

That may not have been the company's intention. SpaceX loves to recycle old government properties. Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral has the old liquid nitrogen tank from LC-37, two old antenna dishes from KSC's demolished MILA tracking station, and three of the crew escape baskets from LC-39.

But for those of us who like to read the political tea leaves, it neatly assures that one less member of Congress will try to backstab SpaceX as OldSpace lobbyists work Capitol Hill.

Here's the press release from Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.

Related articles:

Biloxi Sun-Herald “Stennis Lands SpaceX, Another Rocket Testing Program

WLOX Biloxi “SpaceX Signs Agreement with Stennis Space Center&rdquo:

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