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Used late model SpaceX rocket boosters could be next big museum draw

By Adam Pockross
The SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches in Florida on April 11 2019

As anyone who’s ever visited a quality air and space museum knows, witnessing firsthand objects that have orbited our Earth are of the most awe-inspiring ilk — from Gemini to Space Shuttle missions. But what about objects from humanity’s latest foray into the beyond?

Well, who better to supply the museums of the world with awe-inspiring display material than SpaceX, the company that’s leading the way in the reusable, lower-cost rockets that are proving to be the present and future of space travel. Which is likely why Space Center Houston, the official visitor's center for Johnson Space Center, is so jazzed about its latest acquisition: a used Falcon 9 rocket booster.

Near the end of 2017, this particular first-stage, full-thrust Falcon 9 rocket blasted a Dragon spacecraft into orbit. Then, after a series of successful engine burns, it landed back down safe and sound along the Florida coastline. Since then, SpaceX has taken the lessons learned from this and previous earlier models and turned to its newer, “Block 5” version of the Falcon 9.

So now SpaceX has a bunch of boosters that have gone unused, and will without expensive renovations. Instead, it looks like the company is going into the philanthropy business with rocket-sized endowments, starting with Space Center Houston.

SpaceX is currently working with the Center on how and when to transport this history-making Falcon 9 booster, which flew the 11th and 13th International Space Station supply missions and was the first Falcon 9 rocket that NASA cleared for a second flight.

Space Center Houston plans to first display the booster horizontally at its entrance, but lifted some 4 meters in the air so folks can walk underneath and see all the nicks and burns from liftoff and re-entry. After a year or so, the rocket will then be displayed upright, depending on when SpaceX and Houston engineers can come up with a design able to withstand hurricane-strength winds and the like.

Currently, there’s only one Falcon 9 rocket on display, and that’s in front of SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. Depending on moving help from Elon Musk’s pride and joy, Space Center Houston is the front-runner to be number two sometime this summer, hoping to beat out Falcon 9 rocket display competition from other museums that are reportedly in the acquisition phase, per Ars Technica.

Would you like to see a Falcon 9 rocket up close? Let us know in the comments!