Inside Gateway: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s newest attraction

kennedy space center gateway sign

For a while now, the visitor complex at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has been focused on the past of America’s historic space program. However, last week the complex opened a new exhibit featuring flight-proven hardware and a glimpse of the future of spaceflight. Here is a look inside the newest Kennedy Space Center attraction called Gateway.

Gateway features flown hardware from SpaceX and NASA

Inside Gateway you will find flight hardware from SpaceX and NASA and mock-ups of future spacecraft from Sierra Space, Boeing, and others. This time it’s front and center when you enter the park, so it’s not hard to miss.

For SpaceX, you will get a chance to see Booster 1023 – a Falcon 9 Full Thrust booster that launched twice, once as a Falcon 9 and the second time as a side core for the first Falcon Heavy launch. The booster is hung from the ceiling and fills the venue giving you fantastic views. There is only one place you can get closer to a Falcon 9, and that’s in Houston, where Johnson Space Center’s visitor complex features B1035 at a distance you can touch.

The other two pieces of flight hardware inside Gateway are capsules that have gone to space. The first being the Orion capsule that flew the EFT-1 mission back in 2014. This mission tested if Orion could survive being in space and then reentering the atmosphere. It launched on a Delta IV Heavy, which took it out to 5,800 km. It is paired with SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon from the COTS-2 mission, the first Dragon to berth with the International Space Station. Both the EFT-1 Orion and Cargo Dragon are not new attractions to KSCVC, but now they get a more front and center viewing. Previously these two spacecraft were featured in the “NASA Now” exhibit that shared space with the IMAX theater.

inside Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s newest attraction, Gateway.
Credit: Brandon Wynn / Spaceflight-News + Space Explored

That wasn’t even a new exhibit, it opened back in 2017, but it was tucked away in a section of the park many visitors passed by on their way to the larger, more visible Atlantis building. So if this is your first time even knowing that exhibit existed, you’re not alone. It took me a few visits before a friend guided me in that direction. Gateway’s flashy presence will draw plenty to see these historic spacecraft.

Mock-ups everywhere, including a future spaceplane

To fill the space, you will find mock-ups of the rest of the modern hardware used in today’s commercial space industry, from a simulator of Boeing’s Starliner to the Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy rockets from ULA. However, the crown of the mock-ups is a full-size Dream Chaser hanging right next to SpaceX’s B1023.

Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser is a modern spaceplane and will be used to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station. Launching on top of ULA’s upcoming Vulcan rocket, once Dream Chaser’s mission is complete, it will return to land like an airplane – bringing back memories of the Space Shuttle launching and landing from Kennedy Space Center.

Alongside all these amazing mementos of the modern space program, those visiting Gateway will be surrounded by interactive, educational, and entertaining experiences while inside, all with the theme of being at a futuristic spaceport.

Gateway is included with admission to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, like the other exhibits it has on display. It will be hard to miss, right front and center when you walk into the park.

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