SpaceX's mighty Falcon Heavy rocket — which could one day take humans to the moon or Mars — sits at Cape Canaveral, ready for its test launch later this month.
SpaceX says the rocket will be the "most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two." It can lift more than 54 tons into space — twice that of the Delta IV Heavy rocket — and at one third the cost, it says.
And it's this rocket that is poised to take humans off Earth, out of low-Earth orbit, into the solar system.
The company released drone footage of the rocket via social media Thursday.
With more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff—equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft at full power—Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. https://t.co/NneqPRPr46 pic.twitter.com/oswCUreG6i— @SpaceX
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has long sought to make space travel more cost-effective. He's also a huge proponent of humans eventually living off-planet.
"History is going to bifurcate in two directions: one path is we stay on Earth forever and there will be some extinction event," Musk said at the 2016 International Astronautical Congress. "The alternative is to become a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species."
If the unmanned launch is successful, SpaceX will be the first commercial company to launch such a powerful rocket. The last time a rocket was capable of lifting more payload into space was in 1973 atop the Saturn V rocket that took astronauts to the moon.
And atop of the rocket is the rather unusual payload: Musk's own cherry red Telsa Roadster. Musk is also the CEO and founder of Tesla, a company which builds electric cars.
Landing back on Earth
The Falcon Heavy works off existing technology behind the company's successful Falcon 9 rockets, which launches supplies to the International Space Station. The rockets also launch satellites into space for international clients. It is the first private company to do so.
Instead of a single core like the Falcon 9, the Heavy will consist of three cores, with a total of 27 engines (each core consists of nine engines).
In the demonstration launch — which is scheduled to take place some time in January, but with no date yet confirmed — the rocket will launch from pad 39A at Cape Canaveral, the same launch pad where astronauts set off for the moon during the 1960s Apollo missions.
As with the Falcon 9, the first stage of the rocket will return to Earth. However, with the two additional rockets, SpaceX will attempt something that has never been done before: the return of three rockets to Earth.
Two of the rockets will land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and one on the droneship "Of Course I Still Love You," in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX is scheduled to launch a Falcon 9 rocket into space on Friday. Following that launch, its anticipated the Falcon Heavy will have a static test of its rockets in order to ensure it is ready for launch later this month.