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Come 2013, the burliest rocket in the world may belong not to NASA, Boeing or any of the other traditional heavy-hitters in the aerospace field. It will belong to a relative newcomer, if start-up spaceflight firm SpaceX has its way.

PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, who heads up the Hawthorne, Calif., company, announced at an April 5 news conference that SpaceX is building a new rocket, called Falcon Heavy, with enough thrust to lift 53,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The heavy-lift rockets currently in use around the world, such as NASA's soon-to-be-retired space shuttle; the Delta 4, operated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin's United Launch Alliance; and the European Space Agency's Ariane 5 top out at a payload capacity of around 20,000 to 25,000 kilograms. (NASA's Saturn 5 booster of the Apollo era, with an orbital payload capacity of 118,000 kilograms, was far more powerful than anything in existence today.)

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Category: Science