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Watch SpaceX Test Reusable Rockets (and Scare Cows) in Texas Test-Site Video

An awesome video from SpaceX shows the best way for space nerds to send a herd of cows running: Just dangle a self-landing rocket practically over their heads.

The YouTube video shows activities at the California-based company's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas, which is roughly 90 miles (150 kilometers) north of Austin. The sprawling 4,000-acre (1,600 hectares) facility is the site of roughly two engine or rocket tests a day, according to SpaceX, and viewers are treated to spectacular footage of those tests in the SpaceX video.

In one scene, a Falcon reusable rocket belches out smoke and flame; later on, another Falcon reusable prototype rocket (or perhaps it's the same one) hovers in midair, presumably about to land on its feet. [Watch: SpaceX's Explosive Rocket Landing Blooper Reel]

Another test shows Draco thrusters being tested for the Dragon spacecraft as the vehicle is tethered to a launchpad. Engines are also shown in various stages of development, including inspection and testing.

A SpaceX Grasshopper reusable-rocket prototype sends a herd of cows running in this still image from a video of the company's rocket testing site in McGregor, Texas. (Image credit: SpaceX)


"Every Merlin engine that powers the Falcon 9 rocket and every Draco thruster that controls the Dragon spacecraft is tested on one of 11 test stands," SpaceX states on its website. "The Falcon 9 first stage is tested with all nine Merlin engines firing at 1.71 million pounds [776,000 kilograms] of thrust for up to three minutes — the same as actual flight duration."

SpaceX uses its Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon spacecraft to ferry supplies to the International Space Station for NASA, and Falcon 9 boosters are also used to launch commercial and military satellites (and even the mysterious X-37B space plane). SpaceX is also working on a human-rated Dragon spacecraft to send crewmembers aloft starting next year, if the schedule holds.

In the video, viewers get a glimpse of the main entrance to the SpaceX offices, which features comfortable-looking white couches, a small table (in the background) with an engine that holds up models of SpaceX rockets, and rows of cubicles in the back where technicians collaborate in the aisles.

Other locations featured in the video include the central hanger (complete with Texan and American flags), small and large sites for rocket tests, and the SuperDraco test stand. The location where the cows roamed was not disclosed, but it appeared to be close to the launch areas.

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.