Final Delta II added to Kennedy Space Center’s rocket garden
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — For the first time in over a decade, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida has unveiled a new addition to its famous Rocket Garden.
In a ribbon cutting ceremony March 23, a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket was officially opened to the public. Towering over 12 stories tall, the Delta II now presides over the visitor complex as the tallest exhibit in the Rocket Garden.
The new exhibit features one of the most iconic looks for any launch vehicle with the classic GPS shark teeth proudly displayed on the vehicle’s fairing.
ULA chose to put three solid rocket boosters on the vehicle representing the three customers served by Delta II: NASA, the Department of Defense and commercial customers.
Painted in its signature “Delta Blue,” the Delta II was the last in line of a long history spanning back to the Thor Intermediate range ballistic missiles of the late 1950s.
While many vehicles at Kennedy Space Center’s famous Rocket Garden are mock-ups of true-to-life rockets, this Delta II is an actual production vehicle — the last one ever built — and was never flown following the design’s final launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2018.
Given the amount of guests who visit Kennedy Space Center throughout the year, it became the obvious choice for the vehicle’s final home where it will continue to inspire generations of guests and future explorers.
“The Rocket Garden is our most photographed attraction here at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex,” said Therrin Protze, the complex’s chief operating officer. “When you visit you know why. The rockets here represent so much more than just engineering feats of technology. They are a permanent tribute to the scientists and engineers who turned dreams of spaceflight into reality. The Rocket Garden is a testament to the innovation of our space program, and the addition of ULA’s Delta II represents our recent accomplishments in space exploration. It’s something you cannot see anywhere else.”
The addition of the Delta II rocket marks the beginning of a series of upgrades and additions that are currently in work for the visitor complex.
The center recently opened a new play-place experience called “Planet Play” where children can exercise their imaginations and put their exploration skills to the test while the adults can relax and enjoy an alcoholic beverage or coffee.
In 2022, the visitor complex is set to open a brand-new experience that will house the exhibits currently featured in the “NASA Now” pavilion, as well as adding new exhibits including a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster. Guests will have the opportunity to discover the current vehicles making human spaceflight possible, as well as learn about what the future holds for space travel.
A good old fashioned Rocket Raising. #DeltaII assembled at @ExploreSpaceKSC. This actual rocket, with replica solid rocket boosters, stands 13 stories tall & now serves as a tribute to its foundational & reliable service to the U.S. space program. #ThankYouDeltaII #ToryTimelapse pic.twitter.com/qNWjPTdOtD
— Tory Bruno (@torybruno) March 23, 2021
Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.