Falcon Heavy is a reusable super heavy-lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX. The Falcon Heavy (which was earlier described as the Falcon 9 Heavy) is a variant of the Falcon 9 vehicle and consists of a strengthened Falcon 9 rocket core with two additional Falcon 9 first stages as strap-on boosters. This increases the low Earth orbit (LEO) maximum payload to 63,800 kilograms (140,700 lb), compared to 22,800 kilograms (50,300 lb) for a Falcon 9 Full Thrust, 27,500 kilograms (60,600 lb) for the now-retired NASA Space Shuttle and 140,000 kilograms (310,000 lb) for the Saturn V. The Falcon Heavy is the world's 4th highest capacity rocket ever to be built, after Saturn V, Energia and N1 (rocket), and the highest capacity rocket in current operation as of February 6, 2018, superseding the Delta IV Heavy payload by more than double. Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space, including the Moon and Mars, although as of February 5, 2018, there are no plans to use Falcon Heavy for crewed missions; it will instead be devoted to payloads such as large satellites.
Concepts for a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle were initially discussed as early as 2004. SpaceX unveiled the plan for the Falcon Heavy to the public at a Washington DC news conference in April 2011, with initial test flight expected in 2013. A number of factors delayed the planned maiden flight by 5 years to 2018, including two anomalies with Falcon 9 launch vehicles, which required all engineering resources to be dedicated to failure analysis, halting flight operations for many months. The integration and structural challenges of combining three Falcon 9 cores were much more difficult than expected. In July 2017, Elon Musk said, "It actually ended up being way harder to do Falcon Heavy than we thought. ... Really way, way more difficult than we originally thought. We were pretty naive about that." The initial test flight for a Falcon Heavy lifted off on February 6, 2018, at 3:45 pm EST, after a two-hour delay due to unfavorable wind conditions.
Musk mentioned Falcon Heavy in a September 2005 news update, referring to a customer request from 18 months prior. Various solutions using the planned Falcon 5 had been explored, but the only cost-effective, reliable iteration was one that used a 9-engine first stage – the Falcon 9. The Falcon Heavy was developed with private capital with Musk claiming the cost was more than $500 million. No government financing was provided for its development.