SpaceX Just Put The Coolest Garden Gnome Ever In Its Front Yard

Article written: 23 Aug , 2016
Updated: 27 Aug , 2016
by

SpaceX has certainly pulled off some successful feats lately. In the past few months, the private aerospace company made its second successful landing on solid ground and its third successful landing at sea with their Falcon 9 rocket. In so doing, they demonstrated that they have achieved the long sought-after dream of reusable rocket technology.

And to celebrate these feats, SpaceX has placed a particularly special first stage on display outside the company headquarters in Hawthorne, California. This particular rocket stage made history about eight months ago (on Dec. 21st, 2015), when it became the first-ever first stage to be recovered in the entire history of spaceflight.

For the sake of this mission, which was the 20th flight conducted by SpaceX using this class of rocket, the Falcon 9 was tasked with delivering 11 Orbcomm-OG2 communications satellites into orbit. After separating, the first stage descended to Earth and became the first rocket stage ever to make a soft landing and recovery.

The top of the Falcon-9 lower stage. Image credit: KC Grim

The top of the Falcon-9 lower stage. Credit: KC Grim

Prior to this flight, SpaceX’s had made two attempts at a vertical landing and booster recovery, both of which ended in failure. The first attempt, which took place in January of 2015, ended when the rocket came close to a successful landing aboard the company’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), but then fell over and exploded.

An investigation determined that failure was due to the rocket’s steering fins running out of hydraulic fluid. The second failed attempt, which took place in April of last year, ended when the rocket stage was mere seconds away from landing on ASDS, but once again fell over and exploded. This time around, the culprit was a failure in one of the rocket stage’s engine throttle valves.

On the third attempt, which took place on Dec. 21st, the Falcon 9 first stage landed a mere ten minutes after launching from Earth. After its descent, it successfully touched down in an upright position on SpaceX’s Landing Zone (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The success of this recovery was a major milestone for the company, and a breakthrough in the history of space exploration and technology. Little wonder then why the company is choosing to honor it by placing it on display at the Hawthorn facility, where their rocket manufacturing plant is located.

The first stage of the recovered Falcon 9, showing its landing struts deployed. Credit: SpaceX

The first stage of the recovered Falcon 9, showing its landing struts deployed. Credit: KC Grim

It all happened this past weekend, where work crews spent Saturday and Sunday standing the 50 meter (165 foot) Falcon 9 stage up on its landing skids. Prior to it being transported to their headquarters in Hawthorne, the rocket’s first stage was being kept in a horizontal position at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and then at a location a few blocks away from the HQ.

Getting it to stand again was no easy task, and required two days and two cranes! The rocket also underwent some “aesthetic renewal” before being erected, which included a cleaning in order to remove all the soot it had accumulated on re-entry. Its logos were also repainted, and most of its engines were replaced by spent versions.

Since this first recovery, SpaceX has managed to conduct five more successful recoveries, one on land and four on its ASDS. They are moving ahead with the first launch of their Falcon Heavy  – Demo Flight 1, which is scheduled to take place by the end of 2016 – which will be the heaviest rocket to be launched from the US since the retirement of the venerable Saturn V.

Yes, the little company Elon Musk started with the dream of one-day colonizing Mars has certainly achieved some milestones. And between the creation of this display, and the Dragon capsule they have on display inside their Hawthorn headquarters, the company is clearly committed to immortalizing them.

And be sure to enjoy this video of the Falcon 9 making its first successful landing, courtesy of SpaceX:

Further Reading: Collect Space

A big thanks to KC Grim for capturing some images of the rocket for Universe Today. Check out his Instagram @citizenkace.

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4 Responses

  1. FarAwayLongAgo says

    Won’t people steal part from it, with blowtorches, if it is left out in the open like that? Or by running a truck through it and pick up the splinters. I suspect Mr. Musk is naive in more than one way. Doesn’t bode well for his Mars colony society structure, to have no kind of protection against the haters and destroyers.

  2. LAquaker says

    I haven’t had a back door on my home most all of my life,
    i walked around Rocket Park in Houston this month, should i have stolen you a few parts?
    Endeavor is in a garden shed a few blocks from here, accessible with a can opener.
    Driving your truck into anything fifteen stories tall has got to hurt.
    You need to stop watching hate TV & please remain calm
    If you ever plan to be inside JFK airport.

    • Member
      Aqua4U says

      LAFA has been haunting these pages for years naysaying and generally being a voice of negativity. He is NOT a very happy person. E caveat emptor…

  3. Member
    Aqua4U says

    I used to work just down Imperial Blvd. from this bldg. at Hughes Aircraft. Right next to LAX, tens of thousands pass by this site every day. I’ll bet they (99%) are impressed! Many are employed in the aerospace industry and no doubt approve of the view enhancement!

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