CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s hot new monster rocket makes its launch debut this week, blasting off from the same pad that hoisted men to the moon a half-century ago.
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 5 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.