SpaceX's Huge Falcon Heavy Rocket: How It Works (Infographic)

Diagram of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy.

The next generation of super heavy-lift launch vehicle is the privately developed SpaceX Falcon Heavy. Although NASA's Saturn V moon rocket could lift about two and a half times as much mass, the Falcon Heavy would still be the most powerful U.S. rocket to be launched since the Saturns were retired in 1972.

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Overall the Falcon Heavy is 224 feet tall (68.4 meters) and can lift 53 metric tons into orbit. Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 rocket boosters, with a total of 27 Merlin 1D rocket engines.

Once the first stage has separated, the second stage fires its single Merlin 1D rocket engine to put the payload into orbit. Both stages burn kerosene fuel and liquid oxygen.

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SpaceX is planning a reusable version of the Falcon Heavy would have landing legs built into the first stage rockets, allowing for them to fly back to the launch site and land for refurbishment.

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