The Falcon Heavy won’t surpass NASA’s Saturn V moon rocket, still all-time king of the launch circuit. It won’t even approach the liftoff might of NASA’s space shuttles.
But when it departs on its first test flight – as early as Tuesday – the Heavy with its three boosters and 27 engines will be the most powerful working rocket out there today, by a factor of two. Picture SpaceX’s frequent-flyer Falcon 9 and its single booster and then times that by three; the Heavy’s three first-stage boosters are strapped side by side by side.
The Heavy represents serious business for the private space company founded 16 years ago by Elon Musk. With more than five million pounds of liftoff thrust – equivalent to 18 747s jetliners – the Heavy will be capable of lifting supersize satellites into orbit and sending spacecraft to the moon, Mars and beyond.
Using another airplane analogy, SpaceX boasts a Heavy could lift a 737 into orbit, passengers, luggage and all.
The company already has some Heavy customers lined up, including the US Air Force.
Cape Canaveral hasn’t seen this kind of rocket mania since the last space shuttle flight in 2011.
Huge crowds are expected for the afternoon launch from Kennedy Space Centre. Visitor centre tickets for the best up-close viewing, called “Feel the Heat” and “Closest Package,” sold out quickly.
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