Relativity Space is amping up its investment at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, with the company announcing today that it would lease a historic first stage test stand to advance the development of the Terran R launch vehicle.
Per the new agreement, Relativity will lease the A-2 Test Stand from NASA for a seven-year period, at a price of $2.76 million. The company has the option to renew the lease up to 10 additional years. The new investment brings Relativity’s total footprint at Mississippi-based Stennis to over 300 acres.
Like many of the other test stands at Stennis, the A-2 stand was originally built in the 1960s to test Saturn V rocket engines. From 1976, NASA used the stand to test Space Shuttle main engines; more recently, the space agency tested J-2X rocket engines on the stand. This marks the first time the stand will be put to use by a commercial aerospace company.
“The A-2 Test Stand has a rich history for NASA and NASA Stennis,” NASA Stennis Director Rick Gilbrech said in a statement. “It has been the site for numerous milestone tests, including the Apollo Saturn S-II stage, space shuttle main engine, and Constellation J-2X engine test programs. It is exciting to see this historic structure continue to provide valuable propulsion service almost 60 years later.”
The stand has sat unused for nearly a decade, so Relativity will put an undisclosed amount of capital toward modernizing and adapting the infrastructure. For example, the test stand is currently only configured to support thrust up to 650,000 pounds. After Relativity’s upgrades, the stand will be able to support thrust of over 3.3 million pounds.
Eventually, the company plans to conduct advanced first stage testing of the medium-to-heavy lift Terran R rocket. In a statement, Relativity said the new stand will enable the company to up its testing cadence and shorten the time to market.
Relativity has the largest commercial presence at Stennis, where it holds other exclusive-use, ten-year agreements for the E2 and E4 engine testing complexes. The company is currently building out facilities it calls the R Complex, which will support Terran R vehicle and engine testing, and will include additional engine test stands and a full-scale stand for second stage testing.
The company has plans to ultimately invest $267 million into its Stennis facilities by 2027. Relativity’s aim is to launch Terran R for the first time in 2026.