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October 21, 2008

Paul Foerman, NASA Public Affairs
NASA Public Affairs Office
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
(228) 688-1880

Stennis Officials Issue Buffer Zone Reminder

Officials at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center are reminding the public about restrictions imposed on the Buffer Zone lands surrounding the center.

The 125,000-acre acoustical Buffer Zone surrounding Stennis was established by NASA in the 1960s to enable testing of large engines and stages of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo Program. The Buffer Zone remains critical to the current and future missions of NASA and the resident agencies at Stennis Space Center, and is considered a national asset.

Stennis is the nation's premier large rocket propulsion test facility, where all space shuttle main engines are tested and flight-certified before being shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for installation on a space shuttle orbiter. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's RS-68 engine that powers the Boeing Company's Delta IV expendable launch vehicle is also tested at Stennis.

Because of the Buffer Zone, Stennis is the last place in the country where NASA can test large engines or whole rocket stages, which is critical to the future of America's space program. With the space shuttle scheduled to be retired in 2010, Stennis will once again be testing large engines and stages for the Constellation Program, NASA's plan to send humans back to the moon with possible journeys beyond.

In the early days of the center, when Stennis was known as the "Mississippi Test Facility," certain lands were acquired for the use and benefit of the United States government. The fee area, or operational portion of Stennis, was purchased outright by the government. In addition, it was necessary to acquire an interest in approximately 125,442 acres to form a restrictive zone completely surrounding the fee area.

This zone reduces the harmful effects of very loud, and very low frequency, sound waves produced in the rocket testing area. The interest acquired in this additional land is referred to as a restrictive easement. Because there are harmful effects, such as sonic vibration, associated with the sound waves, this area is not conducive to habitation and building structures that could be inhabited.

In some cases, property owners decided to sell their land in the Buffer Zone to the United States government, rather than sell just an easement. These limited land parcels are considered part of the government's fee area.

The United States government owns a perpetual easement for restricting certain uses in, on, across and over the land in the Buffer Zone, and has the right to prohibit habitation or occupancy of dwellings and other buildings. The government also has the right to prohibit the construction of buildings allowing for, or susceptible to, habitation and reserves the right to remove structures in violation of this easement. The easement does permit other uses when those activities do not interfere with or reduce the rights of the government.

For more information, contact:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
ATTN: RE-C (Stennis)
P.O. Box 2288
Mobile, AL 36628-0001
Fax (251) 690-3532

For information about Stennis Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/.


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