The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission has commissioned RS&H Inc. to study the feasibility of obtaining a Launch Site Operator License that could open the door to commercial space flight out of Stennis International Airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration has developed regulations that enable airports to host operations of reusable launch vehicles that take off and land like aircraft. Several kinds of such vehicles are currently under development. The study will examine the feasibility of hosting spaceport operations, as well as the infrastructure needs and potential economic benefits of such operations.
“Determining the feasibility to launch spacecraft from Stennis International Airport represents a significant growth opportunity to expand Hancock County’s role in the space industry. Space is not new to Hancock County, home of NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center, the nation’s largest rocket engine testing facility. The industry is poised for dynamic growth, and Hancock County is uniquely positioned to benefit from this growth,” said HCPHC’s CEO Bill Cork.
“Developing airports to be able to host operations of launch vehicles promises to bring down the cost of launching payloads into space tremendously,” said Ken Ibold, Senior Aviation Consultant for RS&H and the firm’s Project Manager for spaceport development at airports. “Stennis is a great candidate for a Launch Site Operator License because it is surrounded by compatible land and the community is so rooted in the space age.”
The study will help the HCPHC to identify potential users for the Airport in addition to traditional aircraft. Other activities may include unmanned aerial systems and other aerospace development.
Situated near the Gulf of Mexico, and with more than 1,500 acres of land readily available for development, Stennis International Airport features many of the attributes associated with a licensed spaceport. The Stennis area is considered to be a viable location due to the presence of a strong technology-savvy workforce associated with the NASA Stennis facility.