Technically speaking, the John C. Stennis Space Center is not a military base and is not administered by the Department of Defense. It is operated by NASA and is one of 10 NASA field centers in the United States. The Stennis Space Center, also known as SSC, is roughly 50 miles northeast of New Orleans, Louisiana.
SSC has a large number of tenant operations, the largest of which is run by the United States Navy. Stennis is a NASA center for rocket propulsion testing. The Navy mission there includes the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School, Naval Meteorology & Oceanography Command, Naval Oceanographic Office and U.S. Naval Research Lab.
Find information about Stennis Space Center, Mississippi including the main commercial and DSN numbers for the base, information on basic services, base transportation, lodging for TDY and PCSing personnel, and inprocessing.
For the purposes of this guide, our concentration is on Navy operations and the information needed for PCS and TDY personnel who come to learn and work at the center.
Mission & Units
The Navy mission at the John C. Stennis Space Center includes Special Boat Team 22, Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School, and Naval Meteorology & Oceanography Command (NMOC), among other important operations. NMOC is considered the “operational arm” of the Naval Oceanography Program. Important units at Stennis Space Center include:
- Fleet Survey Team
- Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command
- Naval Oceanographic Office
- Naval Oceanography ASW
- Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare
- Naval Oceanography Operations
- Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School
- Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR Detachment
- Special Boat Unit 22
Since Stennis Space Center is not a military installation, but partners with the U.S. Navy (acting as a tenant organization under the SSC), its history does not have much to do with other legacy sites for the Department of Defense. It was not created in response to the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War Two, etc.
Stennis Space Center got its start in October 1961, announced as the Mississippi Test Operations, and brought into operation as a “static test facility” for Apollo space program launch vehicles. Circa 1975, the Space Shuttle Main Engine was tested at SSC for the first time. Since then “all the engines used to boost the Space Shuttle into low-Earth orbit are flight certified at SSC” using some of the same infrastructure used during testing of Saturn V rocket states used in the Apollo and Skylab programs.
The facility would come to be known as the National Space Technology Laboratories but later (in 1988) renamed the John C. Stennis Space Center in honor of Senator John C. Stennis for the lawmaker’s support of the American space program. Since its inception, SSC began to grow slowly into what it is today–a multidisciplinary facility supporting 30 resident agencies including the United States Navy.
The area near Stennis Space Center is full of adventures including outdoors fun with Honey Island Swamp Tours and Bay St. Louis Beach, and you can book a riverboat tour on the Steamboat Natchez which serves New Orleans and surrounding areas. The City of New Orleans is roughly an hour away, so all of the sights and sounds of the French Quarter are a reasonable driving distance away.
Those who want to hold out to see “Mardi Gras New Orleans” will find it worth the wait and believe it or not, there are family-oriented Mardi Gras celebration events in addition to the wilder experiences the area is well-known for. But one of the most popular destinations is at the Space Center itself; the Naval Observatory, which offers tours twice a month. These tours are in demand and should be booked as far in advance as possible.
Inprocessing and Check-In
Inbound PCS and TDY personnel coming to Stennis Space Center must contact their gaining unit and/or sponsor to determine current check-in and in-processing procedures for learning and working at SSC. In-processing and other procedures here are unique and new arrivals may also be subject to NASA orientations and other newcomer briefings not required at other duty stations. Your gaining unit will give you detailed instructions on how to proceed once you arrive on station.
The unique nature of military service about Stennis Space Center requires those TDY or PCSing to the area to coordinate healthcare coverage and services with TRICARE before arriving in the local area.
There are several military installations in the Gulfport, Mississippi area and nearby. Those who need a full range of medical service options will need to discuss obtaining a Primary Care Manager in the area with a TRICARE representative before such services are needed. Contact your TRICARE rep using the contact information in your TRICARE plan paperwork or TRICARE insurance cards.
In spite of Stennis Space Center being a non-Navy operation, there is a Child Development Center there, providing full-day and hourly care for children ages six weeks to five years old. Waiting lists may apply, it is best to contact the CDC as far in advance as possible when PCS orders are received to learn current procedures.
Call 228-688-3224 for more information. You can also get more help with local child care as a military family by visiting MilitaryChildCare.com, which is a Department of Defense-operated website.
All inbound personnel PCSing to a Navy unit at Stennis Space Center are directed to track and manage their household goods shipments via the Defense Personal Property System at Move.mil. Stennis Space Center is not a military base and the usual resources for TMO and inbound household goods are not available at the center.
Some may find help available at another Navy operation in the area, the Naval Battalion Construction Center in Gulfport, Mississippi, but it is best to contact your gaining unit to get the most current referral information for inbound household goods if you need local assistance.
Dependent And Retiree ID Card Renewal, Replacement, New Issue
Military members, dependents, and spouses will need to contact one of the other military installations in the area (Keesler Air Force Base, The Naval Battalion Construction Center, etc.) to schedule ID card services. The Navy has limited operations at SSC. Sailors and family members often travel to one of the other nearby military bases to get essential services including ID card renewal and replacement.
There are no DoD schools at SSC, but the local area features 11 public school districts, more than 100 schools, plus private education opportunities. School-age children will attend a school based on address; transfer requirements will vary depending on the school district. You may be able to get assistance from a School Liaison Officer at the Naval Battalion Construction Center; call 228-871-2117 for assistance.
There is no military housing aboard SSC, but there is privatized military housing available in the local area in Slidell. There are several military bases in the area including Keesler Air Force Base, and Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport. These installations have commissaries, BX operations, and the other usual amenities military members are used to on their bases.
PCS and TDY Lodging
Those PCSing to Stennis Space Center may find the best luck with temporary lodging facilities at the Navy Lodge Gulfport, which is located aboard Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport; make reservations there at 228-864-3101.
It’s critical to ask your gaining unit what the accepted procedure is for temporary lodging when being reassigned to Stennis Space Center. You may still be required to obtain a certificate of non-availability from a Navy Lodge or other military temporary lodging facility in order to be reimbursed for temporary housing off-post when filing your travel voucher.
Your gaining unit will give you specific instructions on how to proceed with temporary lodging. Don’t forget to consult with your unit or sponsor to avoid paying out-of-pocket for your travel expenses.
There are several airports in the area near Stennis Space Center but the nearest major airport is approximately 40 miles away. Those airports include:
- Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport
- Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
- Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport
- Mobile Regional Airport
- Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport
The usual commercial transportation and ride sharing services are available in varying degrees depending on the airport, time of arrival, etc. Due to the driving distances involved some may wish to get assistance from their sponsor or gaining unit for transportation especially if arrival time coincides with rush hour in the local area.
Vehicle Registration And Driver’s License
Stennis Space Center is not a Department of Defense installation, which means military members and their families will have unique requirements for accessing the Navy areas in the center.
Dependent military family members are required to have a “command sticker” placed on dependent ID cards as well as being added to the command access list provided to the gate guards.
All vehicles must comply with state safety and registration laws including seat belts, child car seats, hands-free cell phone rules and other regulations. All vehicles must carry the minimum required insurance directed by state law.