U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss) today indicated his strong support for a NASA recommendation to rehabilitate and reuse the B-2 test stand at Stennis Space Center to meet rocket test infrastructure needs of the agency.
Cochran was informed recently that NASA has allocated $12 million in funding to initiate the rehabilitation and reuse of the B-2 test stand as part of the agency's effort to use existing systems-level rocket test facilities to support its Space Launch System (SLS) program. NASA also indicated that additional funding in FY2012 could be allocated to the B-2 project if available funding is identified in a subsequent budget review.
"I think NASA has made an excellent decision to renovate and modify the B-2 test stand. Before we launch astronauts into deep space on a new class of rocket, it's extremely important that we put that rocket through exhaustive tests to ensure the safety of our brave men and women," said Cochran, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "This is the only facility in the United States capable of testing a heavy-lift vehicle like the one NASA plans to build as part of the Space Launch System."
"Stennis Space Center continues to be a model for federal efficiency and sustainability, and reuse of the B-2 will be another in a long line of decisions that take advantage of the unique capabilities at Stennis to serve the national interest," he said.
The decision to reuse the B-2 test stand followed an SLS program evaluation of the costs and benefits of options for required testing of the SLS Core Stage prior to its eventual first test flight. The space agency is expected to make significant investments in the B-2 test stand--an estimated $168 million through 2014--to prepare it for core stage testing.
At an appropriations subcommittee hearing in March, Cochran and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden discussed the agency's efforts to provide Congress with details of its plans to reuse and rehabilitate NASA-owned systems-level rocket test facilities, such as the B-2 test stand at Stennis Space Center.
During that hearing, Bolden told Cochran that the Stennis Space Center will play "a key role in the future of NASA, whether it is with NASA engine testing and development or commercial testing and development."
The Senate Appropriations Committee in April approved the FY2013 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill that provides funding for NASA. Cochran supported providing $1.48 billion for NASA's Space Launch System, including $100 million to support test facility requirements.
Last year, the FY2012 CJS Appropriations Bill required NASA to provide the committee with a report detailing the agency's plans to reuse and rehabilitate NASA-owned systems-level rocket test facilities, as well as plans for systems-level testing of the Space Launch System, an evaluation of potential commercial uses, and a description of resources needed.
While the House has approved its version of the FY2013 CJS Appropriations Bill, floor debate on the Senate's version of that measure has not yet been scheduled.