On Wednesday afternoon, SpaceX released the first tantalizing image of its Falcon Heavy rocket, which has been years in the making.
An image posted to Instagram showed the Falcon Heavy’s interstage, which links the first and second stages of the booster. The picture included the enormous launch vehicle’s official logo. The image included this caption: “Falcon Heavy interstage being prepped at the rocket factory. When FH flies next year, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two.”
The $90-million rocket is reportedly capable of launching 19,000 pounds, equal to the weight of a Boeing 747 with travelers, crew, luggage and fuel. The Falcon Heavy will be capable of twice the power of the existing highest capacity rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, at a third of the cost, SpaceX has said.
The unveiling comes after the company’s Falcon 9 rocket blew up while refueling prior to a scheduled launch from Cape Canaveral in September. The explosion also destroyed the $200 million Spacecom AMOS-6 communications satellite it has loaded with, as well as damaged to the company’s launch site.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said his team had determined the problem: “a combination of liquid helium, advanced carbon fiber composites, and solid oxygen.”
Musk has since said adjustments were made to the rocket and it would be able to launch between “early-to-mid 2017”, after being postponed from its initial 2016 year-end schedule.
SpaceX was established in 2002 by Musk with the goal of reestablishing interest in space travel, particularly inside the private sector, and with the goal of ultimately achieving manned missions to Mars. SpaceX became the first to effectively launch a privately-funded, liquid-fueled rocket into orbit in September 2008 and relished a series of accomplishments before September’s incident. Musk, however, has continued to be publicly optimistic regarding progress toward the company’s objectives.
“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,” the company has written on its website.
Image credit: SpaceX