Future of NASA, Stennis Space Center 'strong,' officials say
NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center will remain a key partner in the next stages of space flight and exploration, officials said Monday during a state of NASA event.
The state of NASA is strong, Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said, as the agency prepares for a return to the moon, more space exploration and an eventual expedition to Mars.
Lightfoot said NASA's budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 is $19.9 billion, up $400 million from the current budget.
Of that, $132.6 million is designated for Stennis, a NASA field center in Hancock County that tests rockets. Those funds will be used primarily for space launch systems and operations of the facilities.
"What we're planning on doing here is a pretty exciting round of testing," Stennis Deputy Director Randy Galloway said. "One of the things that's going to be the most outstanding is we're going to receive the SLS core stage."
The SLS engine will produce 2.2 million pounds of thrust, Galloway said. In comparison, the Saturn V moon rocket's F-1 engines were developed to produce 1.5 million pounds of thrust. The Saturn V engines also were tested at Stennis.
"That will be the biggest thing we've tested here at Stennis Space Center since the 1970 time frame, which is very exciting," Galloway said.Once tested, the SLS engine will be sent to Kennedy Space Center, where NASA's first Space Launch System flight is expected to launch sometime in the first few months of 2020.
Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Mississippi, is pleased Stennis will be at the heart of the next stages of NASA's return to space.
“I believe NASA and South Mississippians at Stennis are looking toward an exciting period for our space program," Palazzo said. "I am optimistic for new opportunities after seeing a clear outline for future missions of sustainable exploration by President Trump’s budget proposal."
NASA's mission has shifted slightly, Lightfoot said, with more than half its budget going to refocusing existing NASA activities toward exploration, innovative new programs and support for new public-private initiatives.
"For exploration, NASA’s budget proposes $10.5 billion, with a primary focus on three areas for our exploration campaign — lunar and deep space, low-Earth orbit commercialization and exploration research and technology," he said. "(The budget) reflects the administration’s confidence that America will lead the way back to the moon and take the next giant leap from where we made that first small step for humanity nearly 50 years ago.
"This proposal provides a renewed focus to our human space flight activities, expands our commercial and international partnerships, and continues our pursuit of cutting-edge science and aeronautics breakthroughs at the core of our mission."Palazzo, who joined the bipartisan House National Aeronautics and Space Administration Caucus and served five years as chairman of the House Space Subcommittee, supports NASA's efforts to continue space exploration.
"Since Vice President Pence revitalized our National Space Council last year, I have been an active participant in the discussions of NASA’s future and priorities," Palazzo said. "Our efforts to expand research on the moon, Mars and outer space finally have a road map. The future of NASA is strong, and that strength begins in Mississippi."