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Falcon Heavy

The World's
Most Powerful Rocket

Falcon Heavy Rocket

Falcon Heavy

Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb)---a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel--Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost. Falcon Heavy draws upon the proven heritage and reliability of Falcon 9.

Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit. Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.


Falcon Heavy missions will deliver large payloads to orbit inside a composite fairing, but the rocket can also carry the Dragon spacecraft.

Composite Fairing

The composite payload fairing protects satellites during delivery to destinations in low Earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and beyond.


Second Stage

Falcon Heavy draws upon Falcon 9’s proven design, which minimizes stage separation events and maximizes reliability. The second-stage Merlin engine, identical to its counterpart on Falcon 9, delivers the rocket’s payload to orbit after the main engines cut off and the first-stage cores separate. The engine can be restarted multiple times to place payloads into a variety of orbits including low Earth, geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and  geosynchronous orbit (GSO).

Burn Time
Thrust in Vacuum
934kN210,000 lbf
Inside the Interstage

First Stage

Three cores make up the first stage of Falcon Heavy. The side cores, or boosters, are connected  at the base and at the top of the center core’s liquid oxygen tank. The three cores, with a total of 27 Merlin engines, generate 22,819 kilonewtons (5.13 million pounds) of thrust at liftoff. Shortly after liftoff the center core engines are throttled down. After the side cores separate, the center core engines throttle back up to full thrust.

Thrust At Sea Level
22,819kN5,130,000 lbf
Thrust In Vacuum
24,681kN5,548,500 lbf


Each of Falcon Heavy’s side cores, or boosters, is equivalent to the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket with nine Merlin engines. At liftoff, the boosters and the center core all operate at full thrust. Shortly after liftoff, the center core engines are throttled down. After the side cores separate, the center core engines throttle back up.

Three Nine-Engine Cores

Inside each of Falcon Heavy’s three cores is a cluster of nine Merlin engines.  These same engines power Falcon 9, enabling efficiencies that make Falcon Heavy the most cost-effective heavy-lift launch vehicle in the world. With a total of 27 first-stage engines, Falcon Heavy has engine-out capability that no other launch vehicle can match—under most payload scenarios, it can sustain more than one unplanned engine shutdown at any point in flight and still successfully complete its mission.

Merlin Engines

Fig. 2

Core/Engine layout

Tech Spotlight


SpaceX’s payload fairing, a composite structure fabricated in-house by SpaceX, protects satellites during delivery to low-Earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and beyond.

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Grid Fins

Falcon Heavy’s first stage is equipped with hypersonic grid fins which manipulate the direction of the stage’s lift during reentry.

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Falcon Heavy Structure

The tanks of Falcon Heavy’s three first-stage cores and second stage are made of aluminum-lithium alloy, a material made stronger and lighter than aluminum by the addition of lithium.

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Landing Legs

Falcon Heavy was designed to be fully reusable. Both the center core and side boosters carry landing legs, which will land each core safely on Earth after takeoff.

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The twenty-seven Merlin engines that power Falcon Heavy's three cores are arranged in an Octaweb structure, with eight engines surrounding one center engine on each core.

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Merlin Engine

The Merlin engine that powers all three Falcon Heavy cores was developed internally by SpaceX, drawing upon a long heritage of space-proven engines. A key design at the heart of Merlin was first used for the Apollo lunar landing module.

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Technical Overview

70m229.6 ft



Payload to LEO
63,800kg140,660 lb

Payload to Mars
16,800kg37,040 lb

Total Width
12.2m39.9 ft

1,420,788kg3,125,735 lb

Payload to GTO
26,700kg58,860 lb

Payload to Pluto
3,500kg7,720 lb

The World's Most Powerful Rocket

With more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, Falcon Heavy is the most capable rocket flying. By comparison, the liftoff thrust of the Falcon Heavy equals approximately eighteen 747 aircraft at full power. Below is a comparison chart of the world’s heavy lift vehicles, based on historical launch data. Falcon Heavy can lift the equivalent of a fully loaded 737 jetliner--complete with passengers, luggage and fuel--to orbit.  Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit than Falcon Heavy.

Falcon Heavy Milestones