Falcon Heavy Test Flight

When Falcon Heavy lifts off, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb)---a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel--Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost. Falcon Heavy draws upon the proven heritage and reliability of Falcon 9.

Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit. Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.

Last February SpaceX said it intends to send two private citizens on a trip around the moon, possibly as soon as this year.

Most importantly for SpaceX, the rocket would be vastly cheaper than government alternatives. Nasa is working on its own heavy rocket, called the Space Launch System, which remains untested and is projected to cost around $1bn per flight. The Falcon Heavy would cost less than a tenth of that, at $90m per flight.

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