SpaceX uploaded a photo of a Falcon Heavy rocket interstage that's being prepped at the company's factory. Expected to make its maiden flight sometime in 2017, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two!
ARS Technica recently received word from SpaceX that the company is now targeting an early-to-mid 2017 launch for Falcon Heavy. This new rocket will have twice the capacity of the Delta IV Heavy, it basically consists of three Falcon 9 cores, with a total of 27 Merlin engines capable of delivering a combined thrust at liftoff of 5 million pounds.
As the site reports, Falcon Heavy could potentially be used for a manned mission to the Moon, should the new Trump administration be interested in pursuing this goal. The author points out that Charles Miller, who is part of the NASA transition team, already led a study of moon exploration that relied heavily on the new SpaceX rocket.
A launch in 2017 would also come as the Trump administration reviews NASA's existing exploration plans and, most likely, reconsiders the Moon as a destination for humans instead of Mars. It's worth noting that one of the NASA transition team members assigned by Trump, Charles Miller, has already led an extensive study of lunar exploration that relies heavily on the Falcon Heavy vehicle. In that report, Miller and his team found that the SpaceX rocket offered an "excellent economical approach" for inserting payloads into lunar orbit.
However, SpaceX still needs to demonstrate that its Falcon Heavy can fly. Critics believe a design with 27 engines may be too complex to operate, but similar comments were heard about propulsive landing before SpaceX landed its first Falcon 9 rocket last year.