SpaceX is now in possession of three recovered Falcon 9 rockets following last night's drone ship landing. After the touchdown, CEO Elon Musk joked on Twitter that the company may be running out of space to put all these reusable vehicles.
May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 6, 2016
Like most good jokes, this contains an element of truth. For now, SpaceX is storing its returned rockets at Launch Complex 39A — a spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida that the company leases from NASA. SpaceX has a large hangar at 39A that can hold up to five vehicles at once. When this recently landed booster returns to the cape, that hangar will be more than halfway full.
For now, SpaceX is storing its returned rockets at Launch Complex 39A
However, the hangar is also meant to be used to assemble SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket — a much bigger version of the Falcon 9 that's supposed to fly for the first time in November. The Falcon Heavy is basically three Falcon 9 vehicles strapped together; these components will need to be assembled in the 39A hangar. When it's finally time to piece together the Falcon Heavy, SpaceX may need another spot to house all its landed rockets.
SpaceX's other option is to store the vehicles at the company's test facility at McGregor, Texas. That means a lot of travel for the returned Falcon 9s, though. First, the vehicles will have to be driven to Texas for storage, and then they'll have to either go back to Florida or on to California to launch a second time. To minimize all that travel time, increasing the size of the 39A hangar may not be such a bad idea. Or, the company could always try to build a new hangar altogether.
It’s kind of a champagne problem, really — the kind that results from success. It may be that SpaceX was so focused on landing its rockets that the company didn’t have a long-term plan for where to put them all when they got back.