SpaceX has a lot of rockets. Fittingly, it has hangars full of rockets, rockets on trucks, and it often puts rockets on ships. It has so many rockets, in fact, that it has a full-size rocket parked right outside its corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, CA.
On Thursday night, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted a sweet picture of SpaceX’s gigantic lawn ornament, captioning it “perspective.” For what it’s worth, Musk’s picture really doesn’t give you a good perspective on just how big a Falcon 9 rocket is, but there are, in fact, bigger questions here. Namely, why does SpaceX have a full-size rocket outside its office, and where the heck did it come from?
Turns out, the rocket is the very first Falcon 9 booster the company successfully landed on Earth after delivering a payload to orbit. The rocket flew on the December 21, 2015 mission to place Orbcomm satellites into orbit and landed back in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at around 8:39 p.m. Check out this helicopter video of the landing:
The landing itself was a monumental event for SpaceX, including its employees. This was essentially validation of Musk’s entire plan to revolutionize spaceflight by cutting out the material cost of a new rocket for every mission.
This rocket, of course, only flew once. SpaceX retired it last August to become a centerpiece outside of the company’s headquarters, standing the rocket up so it towered over the already-huge headquarters building. It’s so big, in fact, that it’s visible from nearby freeways. It’s even visible on Google Streetview.
At this point, of course, SpaceX has landed so many rockets watching its launches is almost boring. The company’s next mission, however, won’t bother to keep the used rocket — it’s going straight into the ocean — because its payload is too heavy to conserve enough fuel for a controlled descent. Still, the goliath decoration outside company HQ is testament to SpaceX’s enduring plan to recycle rockets, and also to brag about it to the rest of Los Angeles.