Serious rocket power can be found in a Florida SpaceX hangar.
On Tuesday (April 11), SpaceX showed off its Falcon Heavy rocket ahead of its scheduled April 18 launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s Space Coast. (We’ll have coverage of the launch live here on Space.com, via SpaceX.)
Images of the massive rocket shared by SpaceX on Twitter (opens in new tab) include a close-up of the 27 Merlin engines that will carry the booster into space, and a long shot of a trio of Falcon 9-derived cores near an open door.
The SpaceX Falcon Heavy is set to send the ViaSat-3 broadband communications satellite to orbit as the first of the three-part constellation. A small communications satellite called Arcturus, operated by California-based Astranis, will also be on board, according to The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center (opens in new tab).
Related: SpaceX’s 1st Falcon Heavy rocket launched Elon Musk’s Tesla into space 5 years ago
Falcon Heavy in the hangar at Launch Complex 39A pic.twitter.com/7la68mjfVDApril 11, 2023
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, the world’s most powerful booster, made its debut flight on Feb. 6, 2018. Famously, it took a Tesla car and a mannequin (nicknamed “Starman”) into space in front of live cameras.
There was a three-year gap between missions that ended in November 2022, primarily due to customer delays in preparing their payloads for liftoff. The final Falcon Heavy mission, its fifth, took off in January 2023 and began a classified mission for the US Space Force called USSF-67; several other rideshare satellites also went into space during the flight.
The trio of Falcon Heavy first-stage boosters are designed to be reusable, but not all missions are able to do so due to fuel requirements, among other parameters. In this mission, all three boosters will fall into the ocean, according to Everyday Astronaut (opens in new tab).
The first stage of the Falcon Heavy’s Merlin engine creates more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, according to SpaceX details page (opens in new tab). The rocket was the most powerful currently operating until NASA’s Space Launch System carried the Artemis 1 moon mission aloft on Nov. 16, 2022.
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why Am I Taller? (opens in new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow him on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) o Facebook (opens in new tab).