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Falcon Heavy rocket: What is it and why you should care

Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket to launch since the Saturn V rocket which was used in the 1970s.

SpaceX, a private US aerospace manufacturer owned by Elon Musk, has successfully launched its new Falcon Heavy spacecraft, making it the world's most powerful rocket.

Below we answer some of the most asked questions about the launch.

What is the Falcon Heavy rocket?

  • Falcon Heavy is the largest rocket since NASA's Saturn V booster, which was used for the Moon missions in the 1970s.
  • It is essentially constructed from three Falcon 9s bolted together side-by-side.
  • "Falcon Heavy can launch about 64 tonnes into low Earth orbit - that's almost a factor three more than the current running biggest launch vehicle, Delta IV Heavy," Imperial College astrophysicist David Clements said.
  • According to SpaceX, Falcon Heavy can lift into orbit a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel.

What will the Falcon Heavy rocket be used for?

  • The rocket was designed with the idea of carrying humans into space and opening the possibility of flying missions with people to the Moon and even Mars. 
  • For its maiden voyage, it carried Musk's $100,000 cherry-red Tesla sports car and a space-suited mannequin strapped in the driver's seat. A David Bowie soundtrack was also set to play on a loop. 
  • Musk mused that "it may be discovered by some future alien race", adding that the white spacesuit was real.
  • SpaceX will charge $90m for its launch services in a Falcon Heavy. 

When was the launch?

  • Falcon Heavy went into the space on its test flight on February 6. 
  • The launch took place at NASA's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center in the US state of Florida, the spot also used for the Apollo 11 Moon mission and several space shuttle launches.
  • It was delayed by several hours because of high winds in the upper atmosphere. Minutes after take-off, the two outer boosters landed at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
  • Commenting on the launch, Musk said:
    I had this image of this giant explosion on the pad, with wheels bouncing down the road and the logo landing somewhere with a thud. But fortunately, that’s not what happened, crazy things come true.
    Is the Falcon Heavy the most powerful rocket?
  • The Falcon Heavy rocket is the world's most powerful rocket, followed by the Delta IV Heavy, but at one third of the cost, according to Musk. 
  • It has more lift capacity than any space vehicle to fly since NASA's Saturn 5, which was retired in 1973.
  • SpaceX announced plans to eventually use Falcon Heavy to launch two paying space tourists on a trip around the Moon. However, Musk said he will probably reserve that mission for another launch system, the Big Falcon Rocket. 

When is the next rocket launch?

  •  On March 1, 2018, United Launch Alliance will launch GOES-S from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Kennedy Space Center has announced on its website. 
  • On March 20, 2018, SpaceX is scheduled to launch a Falcon 9 rocket for NASA's TESS mission.

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