On Dec. 21, the private spaceflight company SpaceX made history when it managed to bring back in one piece the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. The feat opens a new era for commercial spaceflight since companies can now considerably trim costs by simply refurbishing and re-flying their used rockets.
Yet, SpaceX doesn’t plan to reuse this first stage. It would rather keep it for display, since it is the first one it has ever managed to safely bring back home, despite a series of failed attempts.
Several days after the historic achievement, the 15-story-tall stage was taken from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX is clearing the launch pad for future manned missions abroad of Falcon 9 rockets to the International Space Station and back and commercial re-supply missions to the ISS via Dragon capsules.
Since Christmas Eve, the salvaged rocket piece has been stored in a long hangar at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39. SpaceX announced that the stage would be tested at the complex to see whether systems are alright, and whether changes brought to the launch pad to support Falcon 9 rockets were the right ones to make.
After the static fire test, the space artifact would be ready for display. SpaceX’s chief executive Elon Musk recently said that the stage would be put ‘somewhere’ just because of its uniqueness. But tests are required first to confirm that the rocket part is still operational.
Nevertheless, Musk didn’t provide more details on where that ‘somewhere’ may be. We do know that it must be a very large place. One probable destination is the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, which hosts the spaceflight company’s 7-story-tall Falcon 1, too. So, maybe SpaceX will donate the artifact to the National Collection as it did with its first Falcon rocket in 2003.
But in that case the Smithsonian will need to build an extra facility or extend its National Mall which is currently filled at almost full capacity.
Another destination could be just outside the place where the stage made history: SpaceX’s control center. That is the place from where the launch and landing were closely monitored on Dec. 21. Additionally, the public would have an easier access to the display since the place is just next door to the Air Force Space and Missile Museum.
Image Source: Flickr