The Mississippi space industry constitutes a growing role in the state economy with implications across a wide range of areas. The industry brings employment, infrastructure development, and technological innovations that increase the ability of the state and the nation to be internationally competitive in a growing sector.
When understanding the space industry, it is essential to note the private sector shift that has taken place in recent years. Government-funded programs are no longer the sole actor in this enterprise. Instead, private enterprise has entered the picture as a growing contributor to progress in space. It is important not to impede this change in the space industry landscape but to encourage this development as a new and capable form of revenue and job growth.
The state of Mississippi shows great promise in this area. In particular, the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County is projected to be the “home to a modern, sustainable propulsion test enterprise by 2025 [and will provide] world-class test services to NASA, other government agencies, and commercial customers.”
In 2020 alone, it served as a major contributor to the Gulf Coast economies, contributing more than $1 billion to Hancock and Pearl River counties and St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana. Indeed, in 2021 Stennis Space Center conducted the hot fire rocket test for the Artemis I space mission, the first of several missions to space that will eventually culminate with Americans on the moon again.
Inside the center, the E Test Complex provides opportunities for private sector companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Relative Space to test engines and help innovate this industry to unimaginable heights. It has been such a resource for companies in the space industry that companies have expanded the space center dramatically.
Relativity, announced that they would be further expanding the Stennis Space Center through a $2.4 million investment. This is on top of their $59 million investment that has been reported to have created 190 jobs for locals.
On both a state and federal level, there seems to be increased attention on continuing this growth. In 2019, former Governor Phil Bryant started the Space Initiative, which seeks to attract more space companies like Relativity to Mississippi. He also announced the Mississippi National Guard Space Directorate formation, which is supposed to attract U.S. Department of Defense federal investments through President Trump’s Space Force. Both of these initiatives show promise in furthering innovation developments in the Mississippi space industry.
Mississippi would also do well from federal legislation such as Senator Wicker and Senator Hyde-Smith’s bill, the Licensing Innovations and Future Technologies in Space Act. Such legislation would significantly grow the space opportunities in South Mississippi by directing the Department of Transportation to build a facility in which federal employees can receive training on the process of licensing commercial space launch and reentry activities.
As an important free-market development, it is important to continue to allow growth in this area. The space industry is a continually expanding area of the American economy, both in the private and public spheres. The Mississippi government would do well to work for cooperation with the space industry as it brings matters of regulatory reform and economic freedom to the state.