Commercial spaceflight has often been overlooked by exhibits and museums. Typically, you might get one small section of floor space dedicated to the booming industry, yet this is now changing. At the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, a new expansion to the park brings an unparalleled experience. Upon entering the park, the Gateway exhibit can be seen sitting behind the famous rocket garden. It is a futuristic-looking building with iridescent metal cladding stretched across the surface. You enter the building and wind through some curving corridors that lead to the main room. The first thing which catches your eye is a spectacular view of a flight-proven Falcon 9 booster suspended from the ceiling. Seeing these launch vehicles on live streams does not prepare one for the awe-inspiring scale.
The booster on display, designated B1023, has flown to space two times with its maiden flight in 2016 launching a geostationary communications satellite and its final flight in2018 being a side booster on the historic Falcon Heavy demo mission! That means it has landed out at sea, on a drone ship OCISLY (Of Course I Still Love You), and on land at LZ-1 (Landing Zone 1). In our photos, you can see the wear that two flights to space and back produce. One of the most noticeable things is the carbon soot that coats the booster during the reentry and landing burn phases – a byproduct of the Merlin engine exhaust.