NASA’s Stennis Space Center began with one mission: to test the stages of the Apollo rockets designed to take humans to the Moon. Looking ahead, the site has a renewed vision to develop as a unique, multifaceted space and technology hub.
It also has a clear plan for how to get there.
The NASA Stennis Strategic Plan 2024-2028, available online at nasa-stennis-strategic-plan-2024-2028.pdf, outlines goals and objectives in five key areas: Propulsion, Federal City, Autonomous Systems, Range Operations, and Workforce development. . The center focuses on NASA’s mission, adapting to the changing aviation and technology landscape, and growing into the future.
“I really like the famous quote, ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it,'” said Rick Gilbrech, director of NASA’s Stennis Center. “We’re determined to do that by taking advantage of opportunities and making the most of the opportunities in front of us.” We want to ensure a path to space, and innovation continues to flow through Mississippi for the benefit of all.
Much has changed in the world of aviation and technology since NASA and NASA Stennis were founded more than 60 years ago. Thanks in large part to NASA’s involvement, commercial space has flourished and continues to grow. Technology moves at breakneck speed.
NASA Stennis has represented the nation’s space program, testing engines and propulsion systems for all three eras of U.S. human space exploration—Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and now the SLS (Space Launch System). In addition, the site also grew into a federal city with about 40 permanent businesses, agencies and entities. More recently, it has become a leader in working with large and small commercial aerospace companies.
It is now looking to take the next step by building on past success, using its skilled workforce and unique infrastructure and location to attract new tenants locally, and expanding into areas such as autonomous systems and diversified operations.
“We have an opportunity to shape the future of NASA Stennis, and we have to be very strategic,” said Duane Armstrong, chief of NASA Stennis’ strategic business development office. “The new plan is our guide to help ensure we are aligned with NASA’s mission and the needs of our commercial partners.”
The main objectives of the plan are: (1) to transform into a multi-user propulsion test company; (2) grow as a sustainable and long-term federal city; 3) design of advanced and autonomous aerospace systems and services; (4) using its unique range location and infrastructure to test and operate unmanned air, land, and sea systems; and (5) growing and optimizing the NASA Stennis workforce for the future.
“There’s a lot of change expected in the coming years, and we need to rethink our role and how we can continue to deliver value,” Armstrong said. “This plan will be the basis of our actions and decisions.
Over six decades, NASA Stennis has grown into a powerful economic engine while meeting challenges and negotiating change. According to Armstrong, the challenge and opportunity now is to adapt to the evolving aviation and technology landscape, connect people with purpose and open up a world of new possibilities.
C. Lacy Thompson
Stennis Space Center, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
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