Featured Image Source: collectSPACE
SpaceX donated a Falcon 9 rocket first-stage booster to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It is now displayed as an exhibit outside the museum's learning center. On March 3rd, the massive Falcon 9 booster was delivered from the Cape Canaveral, Florida launch site to Houston with a truck. SpaceX engineers set up the display this week. The twice flown Falcon 9 with scorch and reentry burn marks from its previous launches, is displayed horizontally, elevated off the ground 14 feet (4 meters) by four 'Y-shape' pillars. A concrete sidewalk was designed in an "X" shape to represent SpaceX's logo. Visitors will be allowed to walk under the 156-foot-long (47.7 meter) rocket. President and CEO of Space Center Houston, William Harris, said in a statement:
"Our SpaceX rocket exhibit will inspire people of all ages to pursue science learning and discovery. We want everyone to have access to learn about the growing commercial space sector which is stimulating the economy and drawing more companies to provide innovative technologies, medical advances and further NASA's plans to send humans to the moon and Mars."
Today, March 12, the space center welcomed the public to see the new outdoor exhibit during a ribbon cutting ceremony with SpaceX representatives and Space Center Houston staff.
The Falcon 9, production number B1035, 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. 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). Reusing a rocket's first-stage significantly reduces the cost of space flight. SpaceX's goal is to eventually reuse a rocket's first-stage up to 10 times.
"I am excited that Space Center Houston has grown to the point where we have exciting things like this coming. I'm really proud that SpaceX worked with us as the first location for a Falcon 9 museum display."
"SpaceX refers to it as a 'monument.' I've never used that word, but that is the only word they use." SpaceX only has two Falcon 9 monuments on display; the first one has been on display since 2016, vertically outside the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. "They were so excited to be part of this. Because they see it as being historic." Spana said. "One of the technicians told me, 'What you got here is a fully functional rocket.' He said this is the real thing and everything is here." The landing legs on the Falcon 9 are missing their actuators but the real grid fins and nine Merlin 1D engines used during flight are intact on display. "SpaceX took a lot of steps for preservation. If you look close, you will see fresh silicone here and there and that is to weatherproof it," Spana added.