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Relativity Space continues to expand at...

Relativity Space continues to expand at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County

By: Frank Corder - September 7, 2023

Photo from Relativity Space

The company has plans to invest $267 million into Stennis and create nearly 630 new jobs in the region by 2027.

Relativity Space, the preeminent 3-D printed rocket company, has broken ground on a new vertical test stand at the A-2 complex located at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.

The agreement between Stennis and the Relativity Space marks the first time a commercial tenant has modernized an underutilized legacy test stand at NASA Stennis. The company says it signifies the strength of the public-private partnership between the two entities.

The expansion brings Relativity’s total footprint at NASA Stennis to nearly 300 acres – the largest commercial presence on the site.

Established in the 1960s, NASA Stennis is the nation’s largest and most prestigious propulsion test center. The A-2 Test Stand was constructed in 1966 to test and flight-certify the second stage of the Saturn V, the launch vehicle for the Apollo Program. It was then used for engine testing for the Space Shuttle Program until 2009. Briefly used for the Constellation Program before its cancellation, the A-2 stand has sat unused for nearly a decade.

“Relativity is spurring its rejuvenation, bringing state-of-the-art testing back to the stand,” the company said in a statement.

The company has plans to invest $267 million into Stennis and create nearly 630 new jobs in the region by 2027 to support the Terran R program development and launch ramp rate.

The entire project, which includes several new engine test stands, a full-scale second stage stand, office buildings and a vehicle hangar, will enable the company to increase its testing, increase the speed of iterative learning cycles and shorten speed to market. Originally designed to withstand a maximum thrust of 1.5 million pounds, the A-2 test stand is being upgraded by Relativity to accommodate thrust of more than 3 million pounds, positioning it at the forefront of America’s commercial space program. 

“New history is being written at Stennis Space Center as we breathe life into the historic A-2 Test Stand with our Terran R program,” said Tim Ellis, Co-Founder and CEO of Relativity Space, in a statement. “We appreciate the support from NASA and the state of Mississippi and look forward to continuing to build out our team and testing infrastructure here in the Gulf Coast. The scale of Terran R as a medium-heavy lift reusable launch vehicle is substantial. Exclusive access to these rare, national-asset facilities through partnership with NASA uniquely enables Relativity to develop a world-class launch vehicle. Together with our significant private capital commitments to reinvigorate these facilities, we are building innovative capabilities to solidify America’s leadership in space.”

Relativity also has 10-year leases for the E-2 and E-4 stands and has commercial use agreements for the E-1 site with continued improvements in the R-Complex for new engine and stage test infrastructure.

In a release from the Mississippi Development Authority, the agency noted that they are providing assistance for infrastructure improvements. MDA also is providing assistance through the Aerospace Initiative Incentives Program, which provides tax incentives to companies that locate or expand in Mississippi and manufacture, assemble or process products, components or systems for the aerospace industry or provide research and development or training services for the sector. Hancock County and Stennis Space Center also are assisting with the project.

Relativity employs over 1,000 people across the United States and is actively hiring in the Gulf Coast region as its presence continues to grow.

“The partnership between Relativity and Stennis Space Center has brought great jobs to our state while continuing South Mississippi’s legacy of spaceflight innovation,” said 4th District Congressman Mike Ezell. “I congratulate both Relativity and Stennis on the expansion of the partnership, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father. Email Frank: