You don’t realize how big the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket is until you see it in person. Those of you living near SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California are in luck. Take a cruise by the HQ and you’ll see the 162-foot first-stage booster towering over the building where most of the rockets are made.
That booster is a testament to SpaceX. When others scoffed at the idea of landing rockets sent to space, SpaceX pushed ahead. They weren’t always successful, but after the first landing (which is now sitting at SpaceX’s HQ) – first stage landings are starting to become routine.
Did You Know: The Hawthorne facility is huge. It stands as one of the largest manufacturing facilities in California at nearly 1 million square feet. Over 70% of each Falcon launch vehicle is manufactured and assembled at the facility. And it’s not just rockets. Every piece of SpaceX hardware begins here. From the first stage of Falcon 9 to the Dragon spacecraft.
Six Dragon spacecraft in various stages of production back in 2013.
Falcon 9 rockets in various stages of production.
The first-stage booster that made history
Last December, in the dark skies above Cape Canaveral, Florida – a Falcon 9 rocket thundered into the sky carrying 11 Orbcomm satellites into orbit. While SpaceX was busy ensuring their primary mission succeeded, most of us were glued to the live feed waiting for the historic moment a few minutes after launch.
Here’s a bonus video from the May landing showing the entire first-stage landing.
Today, the rocket stands as one of SpaceX’s crowning achievements. The private space company hopes it’s one of many more to come.
Since that historic December day, SpaceX has nailed five more first stage landings – four at sea and another one on land.
But SpaceX isn’t content with just landing them. This all began as a means to reusable rockets. And one of these rockets will put that to the test. This summer, Elon Musk said the company was looking to re-launch one of the rockets in September or October. If successful, reusable rockets will become official. And with it, reduced costs for lifting satellites into orbit.
The folks at SpaceX continue to push ahead. They’ve proven you can land rockets back on Earth. Their next target is much more ambitious – getting a Dragon spacecraft to Mars.