SpaceX is set to take yet another leap into the future with the impending launch of their most powerful platform, and indeed, what promises to be the most powerful rocket platform in service anywhere on the planet, The Falcon Heavy, later this month.

In a post on the social media platform Instagram on Thursday, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk confirmed the rumors that the Falcon Heavy would finally take to the skies at the end of this month.  The launch will mark the culmination of nearly seven years of research and development for the private space faring company after repeated set backs.  First announced in April of 2011, Musk originally expected his most powerful platform to begin seeing use in 2013.  Initially. The concept seemed simple enough: by utilizing three Falcon 9 first stage rockets to propel a single platform, the Falcon Heavy promised to be a simple and inexpensive solution to launching heavy payloads into orbit and beyond – but the reality of wrangling all 27 powerful Merlin rocket engines soon proved more difficult than anticipated.

Now that it appears the Falcon Heavy is finally ready to enter into operational testing, the rocket platform promises to be able to lift payloads weighing more than 54 metric tons (119,000 lb), making it not only the most powerful rocket in use anywhere in the world today, but actually, the most powerful rocket by nearly a factor of two.  The current title holder, the Delta IV Heavy which bears a resemblance to the Falcon Heavy in its use of three first stage rockets, can lift payloads of only around 63,470 pounds.

In fact, thanks to the Falcon Heavy’s massive power capabilities, it could even ferry as much as 37,000 pounds of personnel and equipment all the way to Mars along with enough fuel to make the trip.  This revelation isn’t lost on the competition either.  Last month, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg challenged Musk in a race to the Red Planet.  Boeing is the primary contractor on NASA’s massive payload launch platform, the Space Launch System, which will replace the Falcon Heavy as the biggest, baddest operational rocket in the world if and when it ever reaches completion – currently slated for some time in 2020.

In anticipation for the impending launch of the Falcon Heavy, SpaceX and Musk have each been sharing new pictures and videos of the massive platform on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram.  The most dynamic of which has been drone footage of the huge rocket on its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A.

“Hold-down test fire next week. Launch end of the month,” Musk wrote on Instagram on Thursday.  The hold-down test, or static fire test, will be an important step toward getting the Falcon Heavy airborne, as SpaceX needs to confirm their ability to control the massive thrust produced by the more than two dozen rocket engines affixed to the first stage.

If successful, the Falcon Heavy will likely see use as a contractor for the NASA and the federal government, both of whom had plans for a heavy lift platform they hoped to pursue this year with the perpetually delayed SLS.

Watch the drone footage of the Falcon Heavy below:


Image courtesy of SpaceX

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