SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has been a long time coming. The successor to its Falcon 9 and the vehicle hoped to carry humans to Mars, this booster will be one of the most powerful ever. And we've just gotten our best look at it yet, with CEO Elon Musk tweeting out photos of an almost complete Falcon 9 Heavy in the hangar ahead of a planned maiden launch next month.
The Falcon Heavy is essentially three Falcon 9 first stages rolled into one, with a second stage sat atop the middle one. The nine engine cores in each first stage work together to provide thrust equal to eighteen 747 aircraft, making it the most powerful rocket currently in operation and the most powerful since the Saturn V rocket last lifted off in 1973.
In a series of tweets, Musk revealed that when the Falcon Heavy does lift off for the first time, it will do so from the same pad used by the Saturn V rocket at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Musk has said recently that the Falcon Heavy will carry his own cherry-red Tesla Roadster as its first payload, but as an earlier tweet professing his love for floors has shown, it's not always easy to tell how serious he is about such matters.
One thing that is no laughing matter, however, is the risk of the Falcon Heavy exploding during its maiden launch. Musk moved to temper expectations at a conference back in July, stating there was a very good chance the rocket wouldn't make it to orbit.
"I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage," Musk said onstage at the 2017 International Space Station Research and Development (ISSR&D) conference in Washington. "I would consider even that a win, to be honest. Major pucker factor, really; that's, like, the only way to describe it."
Set for some time in January, the exact date and time of the launch is yet to be confirmed. And whether or not Musk does park his Tesla aboard, there'll be plenty of space fans watching to see how it all plays out.
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