The Falcon 9 rocket is a commercial medium-to-heavy launch vehicle built and flown by SpaceX. It is designed to be an inexpensive, reliable, and partially reusable transportation to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). The Falcon 9 can carry up to 22,800 kg to LEO, 5,070kg to GTO, and up to 4,020 kg on an Earth-escape trajectory. The more powerful Falcon Heavy is designed to carry up to 63,800 kg to LEO, 26,700 kg to GTO, and 14,600 kg to Mars.
SpaceX launches Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex (SLC) 40 and Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex (LC) 39A as well as Vandenberg Air Force Base's SLC-4.
Falcon 9, first flown in 2010, is a two-stage rocket with nine SpaceX-manufactured Merlin 1D engines and a single vacuum-rated Merlin 1D on its upper stage. On May 25, 2012, SpaceX launched its Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, marking the first time a commercial spacecraft had docked with the station. On December 21, 2015, SpaceX first successfully demonstrated the return and vertical soft landing of a Falcon 9 first stage. On March 30, 2017, SpaceX successfully flew a previously flown first stage. On November 19, 2017, NASA gave approval for SpaceX to use reused Falcon 9 first stages on its Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) missions to ISS.
In November 2020 the first crew flew up to the ISS on a Falcon 9 using the Dragon 2 capsule.
The Falcon Heavy comprises a Falcon 9 core stage and upper stage plus two Falcon 9 first stages as boosters, comprising a total of 27 engines and two and a half stages at liftoff. Falcon Heavy's first launch occurred in February 2018. The first Falcon Heavy did not have an official payload, Elon Musk send his own Tesla Roadster on an elliptical orbit that intersects Mars' orbit. . There has been three Falcon heavy launches and there are up to ten further launches planned. The Falcon Heavy will probably be replaced by the Starship launcher when the latter becomes operational.
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- SpaceX, "Falcon 9 First Stage Landing / From Helicopter," YouTube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCBE8ocOkAQ
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