HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss.–Important research that could get America back into space in a major way is being conducted in Mississippi at Stennis Space Center, in Hancock County. A new bill being considered in the U.S. Senate will provide federal money for space research and work at the center.
The bill was approved Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan 27-3 vote, and contains funding important for continued NASA rocket engine development in Mississippi, including for the flagship Space Launch System, and contains funding for grants utilized by Mississippi universities.
“This bill is a thoughtful, responsible funding plan for important agencies during a time of budgetary constraints. I’m pleased with the investments we have made in ensuring that the United States remains at the forefront of space exploration,” said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chair of the committee. “Mississippi, and particularly the Stennis Space Center, is at the cutting edge of world-class engine development. This bill will help maintain that momentum, and I look forward to its consideration before the Senate.”
The committee-approved measure funds NASA at $18.3 billion, which is a $279 million increase over FY2015, in order to support the human and robotic exploration of space, fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and support fundamental aeronautics research.
The FY2016 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill is now available for consideration by the entire Senate. In addition to NASA, the bill provides funding for the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other related agencies.
Highlights in the bill that are of interest to Mississippi include:
- Space Launch System – $1.9 billion for the Space Launch System, which would allow the program to maintain its schedule to launch in the near future. Main engine testing for the Space Launch System are ongoing at the A-1 test stand and eventually will utilize the historic B-2 test stand at the Stennis Space Center.
- Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle – $1.2 billion for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, which would be launched with the Space Launch System.
- NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) – $18 million for activities to promote long-term improvements in the research capabilities of academic institutions in order to promote broader engagement at the frontiers of discovery and innovation in science and engineering. The four research universities in Mississippi include the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, The University of Southern Mississippi and Jackson State University.
- National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage (NCCIPS) – The bill report instructs NASA to continue to utilize and expand NCCIPS, which is a national model for successful data center consolidation. Currently, the Department of Homeland Security uses the center as its primary national data center and reports the center will save billions of taxpayer dollars. The center is also home to the Navy’s top supercomputer and other federal data assets. NCCIPS is housed at the Stennis Space Center.
- Minority University Research Education Project (MUREP) – $30 million in NASA funding for multi-year grants and cooperative agreements with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other institutes of higher learning that primarily serve minorities.
- National Science Foundation (NSF) EPSCoR Research – $160 million in NSF funding to promote university-based research and development. Mississippi research universities have benefited from this program.
- Drug Courts – $41 million in Department of Justice funding for grants to support the administration of state and local drug court systems.