NASA leases historic test stand to 3D rocket printing company

HANCOCK COUNTY (Miss.) (WLOX) – One historic piece of equipment at NASA’s Stennis Space Center is taking off on a new chapter. The control panel for the original test stand that put a man to the moon is now being given to a 3D printed rocket company.

A towering structure over 200 feet tall is NASA’s A2 test stand at the Stennis Space Center, originally built back in the 60s for the Apollo Program. Relativity Space, Stennis’ largest commercial tenant is now receiving the keys to this complex.

“It’s been a great partnership to have with them,” said Joseph Schuyler, NASA Stennis Engineering and Test Director.

Schuyler’s relationship with the 3D rocket printing company took off in 2017.

“Through the years, they’ve grown from a relatively small company to probably one of the larger commercial space companies in the country.”

Relativity Space, under its new lease agreement with Terran R, plans to invest approximately $270 millions into the Terran R Program Center.

Terran R is the company’s 3D printed and rapidly reusable orbital launch vehicle, expected to take off in 2026, and aimed at providing large constellation launch services to customers.

“It’s a big, big rocket,” said Relativity Space engineer Andy Guymon. “It’s a monumental task to find a place and build a facility that can support that kind of power.”

Guymon first plans to upgrade the stand further, by increasing the maximum thrust that can be withstand up to 3.3 million pounds.

“We’re just thrilled about building on the history that they’ve started and making that a part of our future,” he said. “It’s been converted over the years to support engines like the space shuttle, and we’re going to be able to return it back to its original design concept and support a stage again. So, that’s kind of a neat part of kind of getting it back to its original design.”

Guymon mentions that the rocket industry faces a shortage which is driving up demand. Relativity signed over $1.6billion in customer backlog as of April.

“These don’t grow on trees. It’s hard to build these from scratch. It’s important to be able to modify the rocket to suit our needs and start with a good foundation. You know, we’re trying to get there before some of our competitors.”

“This NASA mission is to help commercialize access to space,” said Schuyler. “So, even though we say, ‘Well, it’s helping them achieve their goal,’ it’s also a core piece of NASA’s goals.”

Relativity Space’s new program will also create hundreds of new Stennis jobs by 2027.

Now you can apply for a job.

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