Featured Image Source: collectSPACE
SpaceX donated their first Falcon 9 rocket to launch on two NASA resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS), to be displayed at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. SpaceX delivered the Falcon 9 rocket booster by truck escorted by police who blocked traffic on Tuesday night (March 3). The 47 meter long booster was transported down NASA Road 1 and arrived into the parking lot at Space Center Houston.
The Falcon 9 that was donated is an important piece of SpaceX and NASA history. The first-stage rocket booster's first mission was CRS-11 SpaceX's 11th cargo flight to the space station under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract, it took place on June 3, 2017. The booster successfully lifted-off the Dragon spacecraft then returned from space to perform a controlled touchdown on Landing Zone-1 at Cape Canaveral's Air Force Station in Florida. SpaceX completely revolutionized the aerospace industry by recovering rockets' first-stage to re-fly them again. Reusing a rocket's first-stage significantly reduces the cost of space flight.
When the booster's display was announced in May 2019, William Harris, president and CEO of Space Center Houston, said:
"One thing we are really emphasizing is showcasing innovation. What SpaceX has achieved with the reusable and landing rocket segments is really an achievement. It has had a big impact on the space industry in terms of costs and efficiencies."
The same rocket that will be displayed was also reused 6 months later on December 15, 2017, it performed CRS-13, the 13th resupply mission for NASA taking Dragon once more to the ISS laboratory. It was recovered a second time, touched-down flawlessly on Landing Zone-1 (video below).
"We are so excited we got CRS-11 and CRS-13, because it was the first reusable rocket segment used for a mission to send cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. It is really appropriate because [NASA controls the] space station from here in Houston and we have a major exhibit about the International Space Station."
According to collectSPACE, "the Falcon 9 will be positioned horizontally on a platform that are high enough for visitors to be able to walk below the stage" and SpaceX's signature "X" logo will be drawn at the bottom, where the Falcon 9 rocket will be displayed. "Our plans in the long term is to display it in the vertical. But that takes a lot of engineering work because space artifacts are not designed for museum exhibits. So a lot of work needs to be done to stabilize it for long-term exhibition" Harris told collectSPACElast year, "We were given the option of exhibiting sooner and for the near term, placing it on horizontal display and then by some point next year, we will have it vertical," he said. "We will have to work closely with SpaceX on the installation."
NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston is a nonprofit that welcomes visitors to view the exhibits and learn more about space exploration at their learning center. It is expected that the center will hold a public ceremony to showcase the Falcon 9 rocket's arrival sometime this year to honor SpaceX team's hard-work.