A Look at How the Biggest Rockets in the World Stack Up

With the recent successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, it is now the most powerful rocket currently in existence. The Falcon Heavy also cut the cost of putting a kilogram of material in low earth orbit from $2,684 per kilogram to an astonishing $1406 per kilogram.

If you want to take a closer look at how the rockets stack up in all of their details, you can check out the video below or keep reading!

Even with all the history that the Falcon Heavy has made, it isn’t the most powerful rocket in history and there are a few rocket systems eyeing its current top spot. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest rockets of past and the near future and see how they stack up.

Image Source: Concerning Reality

First, we’ll begin with the top dog: NASA’s Saturn V

Saturn V

The Saturn V remains the tallest and most powerful rocket system ever and the only one to have helped carry humans beyond Earth’s orbit. NASA used the platform in the Apollo 11 through 17 missions.

Image Source: Concerning Reality

The rocket comes in at a staggering 363 feet tall with a liftoff thrust of 7.6 million pounds. It had the capability of taking 260,000 pounds of into low earth orbit (LEO) but after it’s last mission in 1973, the rocket system was officially retired by NASA. While the Saturn V may still have the top spot in history, the Falcon Heavy holds the spot for the most powerful rocket in existence.

Falcon Heavy

Its first test flight took place on February 6th, 2018, with the successful launch of a Tesla Roadster into outer space and the landing and recovery of its two Falcon boosters back on earth. It sits at 229.6 feet tall and maintains a liftoff thrust of 5 million pounds. It has the capability of taking 140,660 pounds into LEO at a cost of $90 million USD, practically breaking down all previous barriers to entry for space flight.

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While the launch was historic, NASA has a rocket system coming for SpaceX’s privately funded endeavors, called the Space Launch System or SLS.

Space Launch System

The SLS isn’t currently operation, but it is estimated to be operational no earlier than late 2019. It will have a height of 365 feet and a liftoff thrust of up to 11.9 million pounds. Its maximum payload capacity will be 286,000 pounds into LEO. NASA is planning on using the system to get humans to Mars in the early 2030s.

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NASA continues to push forward on their mission to get humans to Mars, but the private sector still has more to offer when it comes to world’s largest rockets. Enter, Blue Origin’s New Glenn Rocket.

New Glenn Rocket

Blue Origin is the space startup created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. They currently have a small reusable rocket in operation to send humans on sub-orbital tourist trips, but they plan on building a new bigger rocket capable of sending cargo to LEO.

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The scheduled test flight for the New Glenn Rocket is set for no earlier than 2020. It comes in at a height of 326 feet with a liftoff thrust of 3.9 million pounds. With an estimated cargo capacity of 100,000 pounds, this rocket won’t set any records, but it will offer up even greater competition in getting cargo and humans to space.

These 4 rockets are the past and soon to be future leaders in heavy lift technology for space flight, but there are a few other notable rockets that should be mentioned.


United Launch Alliance, SpaceX’s major competitor is currently developing the Vulcan rocket. It would be capable to lift 80,000 pounds into LEO with a thrust of 3.8 million pounds standing at 228 feet tall.

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Big Falcon Rocket

SpaceX is also developing an even bigger rocket system called the Big Falcon Rocket. It will have a height of 348 feet, a payload capacity of 330,000 pounds, and a thrust of 11.8 million pounds. The BFR would rival NASA’s SLS for its top spot and could potentially come in at a much cheaper price.

Image Source: Concerning Reality

There’s a lot of competition brewing as the modern space race heats up – and all of it will help get humans to the surface of Mars in the next 2 decades. It’s an exciting time to be alive.

We’ve compiled all of the rockets and their stats into a poster below. There’s a download link at the bottom if you would like to print one for yourself.

Click Here to Download the Poster

Trevor is a civil engineer by trade and an accomplished internet blogger with a passion for inspiring everyone with new and exciting technologies. He is also a published children’s book author whose most recent book, ZOOM Go the Vehicles, is aimed at inspiring young kids to have an interest in engineering.

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