The space shuttles have made their last flights, but that doesn’t mean that people will stop going into space. There is an International Space Station to run after all. So what it means is that, for the time being at least, humans will be leaving the atmosphere the good old fashioned way: via rocket.
The rocket that you see here is the Falcon Heavy. The rocket, currently under construction, was designed by SpaceX, one of the front-runners in private space flight. What makes the Falcon Heavy special is that the only rocket with more lift ever built was the Saturn V moon rocket. It stands 223 feet tall, weighs 3.1 million pounds and can carry a 117,000-pound payload into orbit – approximately twice as much as United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV, the most powerful rocket now in operation.
SpaceX is spending $30 million refurbishing Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force base for the giant rocket. The Falcon Heavy’s first flight is expected to take place in late 2012 or early 2013.
SpaceX claims its technology will be able to save the government approximately $2 billion per year. With the biggest rocket on the block, the company will be able to put more material into space in a single launch, cutting costs and giving the company an enormous competitive edge.
You can see video about the Falcon Heavy here.