SpaceX shows off shiny Falcon Heavy rocket ahead of April 18 launch (photos)

flacon heavy boosters in hangar with open door at the other side
SpaceX shared this photo of Falcon Heavy in the hangar on April 11, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Serious rocket power is on view in a Florida SpaceX hangar.

On Tuesday (April 11), SpaceX showcased its Falcon Heavy rocket ahead of its scheduled April 18 launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida's Space Coast. (We will carry coverage of the launch live here at, via SpaceX.)

Images of the massive rocket shared by SpaceX on Twitter include a close-up of the 27 Merlin engines that will bring the booster into space, and a long shot of the trio of Falcon 9-derived cores near an open door.

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy is set to send a ViaSat-3 broadband communications satellite to orbit as the first of a three-part constellation. Also on board will be a small communications satellite called Arcturus, operated by California-based Astranis, according to the Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Center.

Related: SpaceX's 1st Falcon Heavy rocket launched Elon Musk's Tesla into space 5 years ago

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, the world's most powerful booster, made its debut flight on Feb. 6, 2018. Famously, it carried 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, caused primarily by customer delays in getting their payloads ready for liftoff. The latest Falcon Heavy mission, its fifth, lifted off in January 2023 and began a classified mission for the U.S. Space Force called USSF-67; a few other rideshare satellites also went to space during the flight.

The trio of Falcon Heavy first-stage boosters are designed to be reusable, but not all missions do so due to fuel requirements, among other parameters. On this mission, all three boosters will crash into the ocean, according to Everyday Astronaut.

The Falcon Heavy's first-stage Merlin engines create more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, according to its SpaceX specifications page. 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?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: