Updated Jun 10, 2019 - Science

Everything you need to know about Falcon Heavy and SpaceX's other key rockets

A SpaceX rocket and spacecraft

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with its Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard. (Photo: Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images)

SpaceX, Elon Musk's private space company, has big plans for space exploration — and a growing arsenal of rockets to achieve its goals.

Driving the news: NASA has pushed back an announced Falcon Heavy launch at least two days to no earlier than June 24 at 11:30 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX's rockets:

  • Falcon 9: In 2012, the 2-stage rocket made history when it delivered the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, making SpaceX the first commercial company to visit the ISS, per SpaceX's website.
    • In December 2018, SpaceX successfully reused a Falcon 9 rocket booster for a third time — a company first — simultaneously setting the record for the largest single launch of satellites from the U.S.
    • Reusing rockets is central to SpaceX's business plan for lowering the cost of access to space.
    • The rocket costs $62 million.
    • It's also nearly 230 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter.
  • Falcon Heavy: In April, SpaceX launched and landed the rocket's 3 boosters, which delivered a payload to orbit for a paying customer for the first time.
    • It's the most powerful rocket flying today.
    • The rocket made its debut launch in February 2018.
    • SpaceX says it generates about 5 million pounds of thrust during launch. It's basically 3 of the Falcon 9 rockets strapped together.
    • The rocket costs $90 million and can lift nearly 141,000 pounds into orbit.
    • It's the same height as the Falcon 9, but nearly 40 feet in diameter.
  • Starship: The Starship will be bigger, have more thrust and be able to carry a larger payload than any of the Falcon rockets. This is the vehicle Musk thinks they'll use to build a city on Mars.
    • Musk recently tweeted that SpaceX is building its new Starship, its biggest rocket yet, at launch facilities in both Boca Chica, Texas and Cape Canaveral, Florida in a "competition to see which location is most effective." He added the "answer might be both."
    • Musk said it'll be 348 feet high and 30 feet in diameter, and will be able to deliver a payload of 330,000 pounds — that's about 2.5 times the payload of the Falcon Heavy.
    • Musk also said he expects the first orbital launch to happen in 2020. He added that he expects its first crewed flight in 2024.

SpaceX's other equipment:

  • Dragon: SpaceX has been flying uncrewed Dragon capsules to the International Space Station for NASA since 2012. The company now has the Crew Dragon, which is designed to carry up to 7 people to space in a single day.
    • A Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed during a ground test on April 20, after a history-making uncrewed flight to the International Space Station in March.
    • It was expected to start flying NASA astronauts to and from the space station as early as this summer, but that's now been delayed, per Axios' Miriam Kramer.
  • Starlink: SpaceX's project designed to use thousands of relatively low-cost satellites to provide broadband globally, even to remote areas without access to the internet today.
    • In November 2018, SpaceX won permission from the FCC to launch 7,000 Starlink satellites into space with the eventual goal of building a network of 12,000 satellites that surround Earth.
    • Musk has said Starlink's goal is to provide a revenue stream to help fund an eventual city on Mars, but it's unclear whether it'll be successful business-wise.
    • It'll likely take dozens of launches to get the satellite constellation up and running, with many more over the years to keep them functioning.

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