How does SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket work?

In plain English: the rocket easily can carry a mass greater than a 737 jetliner filled with people, luggage and fuel from ground level to space.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Barring any technical or weather-related issues, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket in the world at launch.

Consider the rocket's many parts: three Falcon 9 rocket boosters make up the base of Falcon Heavy and combined, 27 Merlin engines generate more than 5.13 million pounds of thrust, according to SpaceX.

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In plain English: the rocket easily can carry a mass greater than a 737 jetliner filled with people, luggage and fuel from ground level to space. Only the Saturn V Apollo moon rocket in the 1970s eclipses Falcon Heavy in terms of its potential payload.

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Photos: SpaceX Falcon Heavy images

Once the rocket reaches the extent of Earth's atmosphere, the rocket separates into two main parts. One Merlin engine continues lifting its payload into orbit.

And now we've reached the top, the payload itself. In the case of the highly-anticipated launch Tuesday, Feb. 6, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced the Falcon Heavy's first passenger is his own red Tesla Roadster car.

VIDEO: How SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket works

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