|Chapter II space update
Early this year in South Mississippi, the Hancock County Port and Harbor
Commission began looking at the feasibility of creating a spaceport at Stennis
International Airport in Kiln, outside NASA’s Stennis Space Center.
No matter the results of the study, the fact that the commission is giving thought to
such a venture is indicative of the allure of the space industry.
Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission CEO Bill Cork said the commercial
space industry is “poised for dynamic growth, and Hancock County is uniquely
positioned to benefit from this growth.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has developed regulations that enable airports
to host operations of reusable launch vehicles that take off and land like aircraft.
Several kinds of such vehicles are under development, and Hancock County is
looking to benefit, perhaps, through a spaceport.
Space is one of the key aerospace segments in the Gulf Coast region, thanks to
NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and the
military’s phased array radar system at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. That Eglin system
has been keeping its eyes on space 40-plus years.
The new space race involves government and commercial players vying for a piece
of the action. Goldman Sachs, in its Profiles in Innovation series, highlighted the state
of the industry, calling space the “next investment frontier.”
There’s been a lot of space activity in the region since the Gulf Coast Aerospace
Corridor 2017-2018 was published a year ago.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., was confirmed as NASA administrator. He’s an
advocate of the Space Launch System and NASA working with commercial space
At SSC in early June Aerojet Rocketdyne completed assembly of the first AR-22
rocket engines for the Boeing Phantom Express, an experimental military spaceship
program. Also at SSC, commercial space companies Relativity Space and
Stratolaunch Systems opted to test rocket engines in South Mississippi (see page 3).
In addition, work on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which will send astronauts
to the Moon and beyond, continued at SSC with additional testing of the RS-25 that
will power SLS.
Meanwhile, at Michoud, Lockheed Martin in February began construction on the
Orion crew vehicle that will return astronauts to the Moon and beyond. This capsule
will be used for Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), the first Orion flight that will have
astronauts on board.
All of this is occurring at the same time NASA is looking for a non-federal private
partner to lead development of a 1,100-acre technology corridor called Enterprise
Park. It’s designed to attract companies that want to work with federal, state and
private operations located at SSC (see page 8).
What is clear to anyone following the space industry is that it’s in a state of transition
with more players worldwide coming aboard. The industry requires a highly-skilled,
workforce to build, launch, and utilize space assets.
With SSC and Michoud involved in both federal and commercial space activities, it
bodes well for the Gulf Coast region’s future.
While the federal military and NASA programs relying on the spending decisions of
the administration in power, the commercial field is more open-ended and can
venture into activities not on NASA’s agenda, including space tourism.
- Gulf Coast Reporters League, June 2018