BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) - Private space exploration firm SpaceX will test a methane-fueled rocket engine at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.
State and federal officials made the announcement Wednesday.
SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., is supposed to begin testing in 2014.
The testing could support a handful of jobs, but officials said it's important because it could make Stennis more attractive to other private users. The facility will be owned by NASA, and could support other users, state officials said.
"This agreement marks our continued commitment to our nation's space program and ongoing efforts to bring new opportunities to Stennis Space Center and the state of Mississippi," Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement.
Mississippi will spend $500,000 and NASA will spend $600,000 to help upgrade a rocket test stand so it can use methane to fuel SpaceX's Raptor engine. It's unclear how much SpaceX will invest.
"This is another great example of state and local leaders cooperating with Stennis to provide incentives that draw high tech aerospace companies to south Mississippi," said Rick Gilbrech, Stennis center director.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss, said in a statement that officials have been trying to recruit SpaceX for years.
"I hope this is just the beginning of their endeavors in our state," he said.
NASA tests engines at Stennis for itself, and works with two other commercial space companies, Orbital and Blue Origin.
Another rocket and missile maker, Aerojet Rocketdyne, also leases a test stand at Stennis to test its RS-68 engines, which power Delta IV rockets. Rolls Royce Group PLC recently opened a $50 million facility to test jet airplane engines at Stennis, with plans to hire up to 35 people.
NASA has 300 direct employees at Stennis and more than 1,100 contractors. Including other government agencies, research institutes and private companies, about 5,000 people work at the complex near the Louisiana border.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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