I had the privelidge of taking a tour of the facilities of the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) located throughout Cape Canaveral. The blog post will be updated with pictures as I return in the morning to the press site.
The tour began with a ride out to the SpaceX Control Center, where the Falcon 9 launch from the Cape was monitored. After going throgh the relatively small room with a group of large monitors, we proceeded out back to the grassy tent area, right outside the Air Force Museum, where the Dragon capsule was on display. Not just any one, but the actual capsule which had been to space and returned. To be honest, it looked like an overly-charred marshmallow, except at parts it was cracked and torn, but not sure if that was intentional or upon return from its couple of orbits. While at the site, I also had the pleasure of talking to former astronaut Dr. Garrett Reisman. Audio clips will be posted tomorrow.
Afterwards, we moved on to SLC (Space Launch Complex) 40, a former Air Force launch site currently on a 5 year loan. We were underneath the launch gantry, which remains horizontal until the day before of launch when they do a "wet test" of the engines and then on launch day when they actually send it up to space. They worked around the existing architecture to build their sites. One interesting thing is that between the lightning rods are wires which form a small square, which is where the Falcon 9 must go through. It's amazing how such a rocket can fit through such a small space.
We then went inside the facility where they are currently assembling the next Falcon 9, named for its 9 engines on its first of two stages. We were restricted to the images we could take due to a technicality called ITAR (International Traffic and Arms Regulations) so that others can't steal some of their ideas. It was interesting how the two stages, stage one and two, are made of different materials. One is of a stronger metal, the other a fiberglass alloy. Up close, you can tell the difference, but it works.
If you have any questions about this tour, I will leave comments enabled for this post. Feel free to post questions, and once we return to the press site and check our photos and audio, we'll be happy to add pictures and answer any specific questions you have.
The first L-1 event is at 9:00am EDT with a demonstration of the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), so check out the updates here and be sure to tune to NASA TV to view it. We will also have personal astronaut interviews and others from around the industry, so look forward to that.
Go Atlantis! Sawyer