NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center, in Hancock County Mississippi, was formed in 1961, out of a need for a rocket testing facility with a large acoustical buffer area surrounding the test stands. Back then, it was referred to as the Mississippi Test Facility. Before this facility, rocket testing took place in Huntsville, Alabama, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, on test stands which I covered in a previous post (click here to view). Once Marshall started testing the large S-IC stage of the Saturn V rocket, the nearby town of Huntsville was suffering broken windows and structural damage. The need for this new facility was obvious.
One critical step in rocket engine development is static testing, where an engine, or the entire rocket stage, is fixed to an enormous test stand, and fired for different periods of time. The data from these tests is analyzed, and used in countless ways to refine design, and prove that these engines will work in their mission.
The third photo shows the A-3, A-2 and A-1 test stands (from left to right), most recently used fire the J-2X rocket engines.
Photos six and seven show the enormous B1/B2 test stand, where the Saturn V S-IC stages were fired during the 1960s, and the Space Shuttle Main Engines were tested most recently. These photos of B1/B2 stand were taken on March 21, 2014. They are pretty exciting, because they show renovation underway, in preparation for testing future SLS Core Stage, which will ultimately bring humans to Mars. When I went to Stennis on September 14, 2013, the cranes, shown in these photos, were not yet present.
Several companies and agencies operate from the Stennis property, including the NOAA oceanic buoy headquarters, and Rolls-Royce, who tests their Trent 1000 jet engine, installed in the 787 Dreamliner.
Wernher von Braun’s office, shown in the second photo, rises above the treetops, for ample viewing of the B1/B2 test stand from afar. I would love nothing more than to go back and time to March 3, 1967, and watch the first Saturn V S-IC-T stage test from this building.