- Falcon Heavy, SpaceX
- 22,819,000 newton(s)
- United States (Cape Canaveral Air Force Station)
The most powerful rocket currently in service is the Falcon Heavy, made by American commercial rocket builders SpaceX. Its three booster cores and 27 engines create 22,819 kiloNewtons (5.13 million pounds-force) of thrust at lift-off at sea level, and 24,681 kN (5,548,500 lbf) in the vacuum of space. The Falcon Heavy is around twice as capable in lifting a payload as any other operational heavy-lift rocket, being able to carry payloads of as much as 63,800 kg (140,660 lb) into low earth orbit. Its maiden flight took place on 6 February 2018, with lift-off at 3:45 p.m. (EST: 8:45 p.m. UTC) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, USA.
The rocket is 70 m (229 ft 6 in) tall and weighs 1,420,788 kg (3,125,735 lb). In absolute terms it is the fifth most powerful rocket ever built, trailing behind the Soviet N1-L3 (retired 1968), the US Saturn V (retired 1973), the Soviet Energia (retired 1988) and the Space Shuttle (retired 2011). For its maiden flight it carried an orothodox test payload: SpaceX founder Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster electric car, which was launched into heliocentric orbit with a cargo that comprised a mannequin in a space suit, a copy of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and a towel.
In addition to the successful deployment of the payload into heliocentric orbit, the maiden launch also featured the synchronised landing of the two booster stages back at their launch site in Florida. It was hoped that the core stage could also be landed, but it used too much fuel trying to slow down and didn't have enough propellant left for the final landing burn. It struck the sea close to the landing "drone-ship" at a reported 300 mph (482 km/h), exploding and seriously damaging the barge.