SpaceX released an animated video this week showing the next stage of the company’s revolutionary reusable rocket development — the Falcon 9 Heavy — its most powerful vehicle yet, which will land three separate boosters after launch.
The Falcon 9 Heavy combines three of SpaceX’s successful Falcon 9 rockets, which have successfully propelled five resupply missions to the International Space Station, into one massive booster. Combining each individual booster’s nine engines, the vehicle’s first stage is made up of 27 engines with a liftoff thrust equivalent to 18 Boeing 747 aircraft operating simultaneously.
SpaceX’s biggest rocket yet will stand more than 224 feet high and be capable of carrying a 53 metric ton payload, roughly the same weight as a fully loaded 737. Falcon 9 Heavy was designed to propel both manned ships and heavy cargo, such as satellites, into space.
The rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral, and after propelling the vehicle into orbit, will separate its two side boosters, which will automatically course correct and execute a series of burns to land vertically on designated earthbound platforms. The core booster will do the same as the rocket’s single-engine second stage propels its payload into orbit. (VIDEO: Watch SpaceX’s First-Ever Attempt To Land A Rocket After An Orbital Launch)
The Falcon 9 Heavy will undergo its first test launch sometime later this year.
SpaceX, which came very close to its first post-launch rocket landing on a platform at sea earlier this month, will make its second attempt with a single Falcon 9 on Feb. 8, when the company launches NASA’s DSCOVR space weather satellite into orbit.
Earlier this month SpaceX settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Air Force allowing the company to compete for military satellite launch contracts, which previously went solely to Boeing and Lockheed Martin. SpaceX will now have a shot at sharing in the $70 billion the military plans to spend on such launches between now and 2030.
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