SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell announces that the first flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket, SpaceX’s claim to the world’s most powerful and largest operational rocket, may take place in November of this year. Its success would mark a major shift in commercial spaceflight as Falcon Heavy would become the first reusable and therefore cheapest heavy-lift rocket available for contract.
The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of its proven Falcon 9 rockets strapped together into one unit. Together, the twenty seven Merlin engine will generate about 4,000,000 pounds of thrust — enough to put a 116,845 lb payload into orbit.
The Falcon 9 alone can only lift a 28,991 lbs payload into low earth orbit, according to Space Flight Insider. The recent SES 9 satellite weighed just over 12,000 lbs, but it represented more of a challenge because it is supposed to go into orbit about 24,000 mile above the earth. Low earth orbit missions like those used to resupply the International Space Station only need to rise about 300 miles above the earth.