Elon Musk's Big Falcon Rocket revealed: How it compares to SpaceX's other powerful spacecrafts

By Jennifer Earl

Published September 17, 2018

In February, SpaceX's Elon Musk successfully launched one of the biggest – and most powerful – spacecrafts the world has ever seen: the Falcon Heavy rocket.

"I feel giddy and happy, actually," Musk commented ahead of the inaugural flight on Feb. 6. "I’m super-confident we’ve done everything we can to achieve maximum success of this mission.”

When the Heavy lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, it became the most powerful operating rocket in the world "by a factor of two," SpaceX said.


But Musk is now working on perfecting SpaceX's other monster rocket, known as the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). Here's a look at the massive spacecraft, which is set to eventually replace the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, as well as its Dragon spacecraft.

Big Falcon Rocket


Elon Musk first announced the BFR back in September 2017.  (SpaceX)

The BFR, which was first announced in September 2016, is a two-stage reusable spaceship system that will weigh 9.7 million pounds and be capable of taking a 330,000 pound payload to Mars and lower-Earth orbit. The reusable 387-foot rocket will have its own dedicated passenger ship.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, 42, says he will invite six to eight artists, architects, designers and other creative people on a weeklong journey to circumnavigate the moon.

Maezawa said the BFR rocket will make the trip in 2023.

Falcon Heavy


When the Falcon Heavy lifts off on Feb. 6, it will be one of the most powerful rockets in the world, Musk says.  (SpaceX)

It’s called “Heavy” for a reason.

The total mass of the Falcon Heavy, which Musk dubs the “most powerful operational rocket in the world" and a total "beast," is 3.1 million pounds. 

“With the ability to lift into orbit nearly [141,000 pounds] – a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel – Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy,” according to SpaceX.

The Falcon Heavy has three first-stage boosters, strapped together with 27 engines in all. Stretching 40 feet at the base and standing 230 feet tall, the Heavy is a triple dose of the Falcon 9, the company's frequent flyer that has just a single booster.

At liftoff, the Heavy packs about 5 million pounds of thrust. That's about the equivalent to 18 Boeing 747 aircrafts, SpaceX notes.

In a historic move, Musk, who also runs electric vehicle maker Tesla, placed his cherry Tesla Roadster on the Heavy's maiden flight. No car has ever rocketed into space before, if you don't count NASA's Apollo-era moon buggies.

Musk plans to eventually use the Heavy to hoist humans, super-sized satellites and other heavy equipment into space. And, one day, he hopes to witness it carry crews of astronauts to the moon, Mars and beyond.

"In expendable mode, Falcon Heavy can send a fully loaded Dragon to Mars or a light Dragon to Jupiter's moons," Musk tweeted in September 2015. "Europa mission [would] be cool."

During the South by South West (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, in March, Musk told a crowd he enivisions test flights of a Mars spacecraft next year. The rocket ship expected to make it to the Red Planet is the BFR, which will have an updated design over the Heavy, with a single system containing one booster and one ship.

Musk, however, cautioned early trips to Mars could result in death.

“For the early people that go to Mars, it will be far more dangerous. It kind of reads like (Ernest) Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers: Difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die," Musk said. "Excitement for those who survive.”

Falcon Heavy by the numbers:

Height: 229.6 feet

Width: 39.9 feet

Weight: 3,125,735 pounds

Price: $90 million

Falcon 9 

The Falcon 9 was named for its nine first-stage engines.  (SpaceX)

The Falcon 9, named for its nine engines, is much smaller than the Falcon Heavy. The two-stage rocket, which made its debut in June 2010, was designed to carry satellites and the Dragon (see below) cargo capsule safely into orbit.

On Dec. 23, 2008, SpaceX was awarded a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, agreeing to make 12 cargo trips to the International Space Station (ISS).

One of Falcon 9's best qualities is its affordability. The reusable spacecraft was designed for "maximum reliability."

"Falcon 9’s simple two-stage configuration minimizes the number of separation events," SpaceX explains. "And it can safely complete its mission even in the event of an engine shutdown."

Falcon 9 by the numbers:

Height: 229.6 feet

Diameter: 12 feet

Weight: 1,207,920 pounds

Price: $62 million


The SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule approaches the International Space Station prior to installation in this NASA picture taken April 10, 2016. REUTERS/NASA via social media/Handout via Reuters   THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - TM3EC4A0R6P01

The Dragon spacecraft was designed to make cargo runs.  (REUTERS)

The Dragon rocket is the smallest spacecraft of the bunch. It was designed to make cargo runs.

In fact, in the Dragon capsule made history in 2012. It became the first commercial aircraft to ever deliver cargo to the ISS and succesfully make a return trip to Earth.

However, SpaceX engineers are making improvements to the rocket so it can eventually carry more than just cargo.

"Under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is now developing the refinements that will enable Dragon to fly crew," SpaceX says. "Dragon's first manned test flight is expected to take place as early as 2018."

Dragon by the numbers:

Height: 23.6 feet

Diameter: 12 feet

Weight: 13, 228 pounds

Price: Not listed

The Associated Press and Fox News' Chris Ciaccia contributed to this report.

Jennifer Earl is an SEO editor for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @jenearlyspeakin.