SpaceX, the private space company, has changed the way rockets and spaceships are viewed by the general populace. Space travel is now no longer the domain of scientists and astronauts only. A trip to the outer universe seems feasible with the Elon Musk company offering travel on its crafts to Mars in the future.

Powerful Rocket Engines in the World

With technology moving forward by leaps and bounds, humans might just conquer the outer space and establish colonies a la the movies with rockets acting as the launch vehicles.

Here is a look at the world’s most powerful rockets, the precursors to the above-mentioned dreams:

1. Falcon Heavy Powerful Rocket Engine

SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon

Falcon Heavy and Dragon (Image Credit: SpaceX)

Spaces X’s Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket engine in operation today. It took its first flight on February 6, 2018, with a Tesla Roadster as payload, which was launched into space. Two out of its three two boosters successfully landed back on earth and were recovered.

It is 229.6 feet tall and manages a liftoff thrust of 5 million pounds from its impressive 27 Merlin 1D engines. The spacecraft carrier has cut down the cost of space travel from $2,684 per kilogram to $1406per kilogram. Its maximum payload is 140,700 pounds.

SpaceX developed Merlin for its use on Falcon 1, Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles. Merlin engines use RP-1 and liquid oxygen as rocket propellants in a gas-generator power cycle.

Merlin Engine most powerful rocket

A SpaceX Merlin engine is on a test stand at the company’s facility in McGregor, Texas. (SpaceX)

Merlin 1D engine was originally designed for a sea level thrust of 620kN (140,000 lbf), and a vacuum thrust of 690kN (155,000 lbf), a vacuum specific impulse of 310 s, an increased expansion ratio of 16 and chamber pressure of 9.7 MPa (1,410 psi).

In May 2016, SpaceX announced it anticipated the sea level thrust to about 730kN (160,000 lbf) and an uprated vacuum thrust of 825 kN (185,500 lbf), without an increased mass.

In May 2018, just before the Bangabandhu-1 launch, Elon Musk announced that the 190,000 lbf (850 kN) goal had been achieved. The Merlin 1D is close to the sea level thrust of the retired Rocketdyne H-1 / RS-27 engines used on Saturn I, Saturn IB, and Delta II.

2. Saturn V Powerful Rocket Engine

Rocket NASA Saturn V most powerful rocket engine

Image: Rocket NASA Saturn V (Credit: Pixabay)

Saturn V is the rocket that put humans onto the moon. Even after the Falcon Heavy,  it is still the tallest and heaviest rocket and it was used by NASA to send astronauts to the moon. Saturn V carried the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 spacecraft.

Saturn V also carried Apollo 13 but the spacecraft developed some glitch and the mission had to be aborted.

It also launched the first US space station, the Skylab, in 1973.

Saturn V was in operation from 1967 to 1973. It was 363 feet tall with a liftoff thrust of 7.6 million pounds. It had a 260,000 pounds payload capacity to LEO (low earth orbit).

Rocketdyne_F-1 most powerful rocket engines

Rocketdyne F-1 engine.

The first stage of Saturn V used five Rocketdyne F-1 rocket engines, producing 7.5 million lbs (3.4 million kilograms) of thrust during launch for about 2 minutes. It consumed up to 20 tons (40,000 pounds) of fuel per second.

Rocketdyne F-1 is the most powerful single-nozzle liquid-fueled rocket engine NASA has ever flown. The engines were designed to be disposable. After reaching a certain altitude, the F-1 engines would shut down and fall back into the ocean.

3. Energia Powerful Rocket Engine

Energia Buran World's Most Powerful Engine

(Image: Energia Buran)

Energia is a Soviet-built spacecraft rocket. It was manufactured to carry space crew and is one of the most powerful rocket engines in the world. Energia was launched only twice; in 1987 and 1988. It had a height of 190 feet and a payload capacity of 220.000 pound to LEO.  It went on a test launch in 1987 with the spacecraft Polyus. The rocket launch was successful but Polyus failed to reach orbit due to an error. The second launch carried the spacecraft Buran into orbit, but it was uncrewed. Russia recently announced plans to revive the rocket launcher.


Museum of Space and Missile Technology (Saint Petersburg). RD-170 rocket engine.

The Energia is propelled by four strap-on boosters each powered by a four-chamber RD-170 engine burning kerosene/LOX, and a central core stage with 4 one-chamber RD-0120 engines fueled by liquid hydrogen/LOX.

RD-170 is the most powerful multi-combustion chambered liquid-fuel rocket engine, designed and produced by the Soviet Union. It provides a thrust of 7,904 kN (1,777,000 lbf) in a vacuum and 7,257 kN (1,631, 000 lbf) at sea level.

RD-0120 produces 1,961.3 kN (440,900 lbf) of thrust in a vacuum and 1,526 kN (343,000 lbf) at sea-level.

4. Long March 9 Powerful Rocket Engine

Long March most powerful rocket engine

Long March 9 is a rocket launcher still under construction in China. It will likely have a height of 300 to 330 feet and a maximum payload capacity of 308,000 pounds.

Long March rockets have been in operation in China from the 1970s. The super heavy Long March will be in operation only by 2028, according to reports.

Long March 9 will be propelled by a new-generation liquid oxygen/kerosene engine with 500 tons of thrust power.

5. Space Launch Systems (SLS) Powerful Rocket Engine

Space Launch System in Flight Most Powerful Rocket Engine

Space Launch Systems (SLS) (Image: NASA)

It is currently under development by NASA and will carry astronauts to the Moon and Mars under its Orion project. It is touted to stand at a height of 365 feet with a maximum payload of 209,000 pounds (Block 1), 290,000 pounds (Block 2).  SLS will have a liftoff thrust of up to 11.9 million pounds.

NASA is planning to put humans on Mars through this rocket launcher by early 2030s.


NASA has designed the Space Launch System as the foundation for a generation of human exploration missions to deep space, including missions to the Moon and Mars. SLS will leave low-Earth orbit and send the Orion spacecraft, its astronaut crew and cargo to deep space. To do this, SLS has to have enough power to perform a maneuver known as trans-lunar injection, or TLI. This maneuver accelerates the spacecraft from its orbit around Earth onto a trajectory toward the Moon. The ability to send more mass to the Moon on a single mission makes exploration simpler and safer.
(Credits: NASA)

SLS will use four modified RS-25D engines left over from the Space Shuttle program. The first SLS vehicle, Block 1, will be powered by twin five-segment solid rocket boosters and four RS-25 liquid-propellant engines.

Block 1B will use more powerful Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) to enable more ambitious missions. It can send approximately 37 t (81, 571 lbs.) to deep space including Orion and its crew.

Block 2 will provide 11.9 million lbs. of thrust and will be the main vehicle for sending cargo to Moon, Mars, and other deep space destination. Block 2 will be designed to lift more than 45 t (99,000 lbs.) to deep space.

6. Starship Space Vehicle Powerful Rocket Engine

SpaceX Starship most powerful rocket engines

SpaceX Starship (Credit: SpaceX)

This is again a SpaceX launcher and spacecraft system carrier. It is still under development and has an ambitious plan of carrying people to Mars. It was earlier names the BFR or “Big Falcon Rocket”. It will be 387 feet tall and have a payload capacity of over 220,000 pounds. The spacecraft will be carrying its first test hop launch in February.

SpaceX Raptor engine most powerful rocket

Raptor testing (Image: SpaceX)

Starship Space Vehicle will use six methane/oxygen-propellant Raptor engines. These engines are similar to the engines on the booster, Super Heavy. Total Starship thrust is approximately 12,000 kN (2,600,000 pounds-force).

7. New Glenn Powerful Rocket Engine

New Glenn Most Powerful Rocket Engine

This powerful rocket is being developed by Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origins space company. It will be using 9 BE-4 engines to give it a liftoff thrust of 3.85 million pounds. It will have a height of 230 feet and a payload capacity of 140,700 pounds to LEO. The company hopes to launch it by 2021.

New Glenn is a reusable rocket launcher similar to the company’s earlier New Shepherd Rocket and Space X’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

Most Powerful Rocket Engine

BE-4 Engine (Image: Blue Origin)

The BE-4 cryogenic rocket engine has acquired a total of 1800 seconds of hot fire testing on ground test stands. It had yet to be tested above 1800 kN (400,000 pounds-force) of thrust, about 73 percent of the engine’s rated thrust of 2400 kN (550,000 lbf).

8. Vulcan Powerful Rocket Engine

Vulcan powerful rocket Engine Worlds

Vulcan (Image: United Launch Alliance)

 Vulcan is again being developed by a private company United Launch Alliance, also a major competitor of SpaceX.

It will be 228 feet tall. The launcher is supposed to have a thrust speed of 3.8 million pounds and will be able to carry a payload of 80,000 pounds into the Earth’s orbit.  It was supposed to have its first test flight in 2020.

Blue Origin BE-4 Engine most powerful rocket

BE-4 Engine (Image: Blue Origin)

In September 2014, ULA announced it had entered into a partnership with Blue Origin to develop BE-4 liquid oxygen and liquid methane engines in the first stage of its Vulcan rocket.

ULA has consistently referred to Vulcan as a ‘next-generation launch system.’

9. Space Shuttle Powerful Rocket Engine

The Space Shuttle is synonymous to American space exploration. It was the reusable spacecraft system that NASA developed to send people and payloads into orbit.

It carried an orbiter, a massive external fuel tank and two rocket boosters.

 Space Shuttles Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery and Endeavor went into space 135 times between 1981 and 2011, after which it was retired. The launcher stood at 185 feet and had a payload capacity of 60,000 pounds.

RS-25 engine most powerful rocket engines

Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 at the National Air and Space Museum.

The Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25, also known as the Space Shuttle main engine (SSME) is known for its high performance and reliability. It burns cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, with each engine producing 1,859 kN (418,000 pounds-force) of thrust at liftoff. The RS-25 engine produces a specific impulse of 452 seconds (4.43 km/s) in a vacuum or 366 seconds (3.59 km/s) at sea level. It has a mass of 3.5 tonnes (7,700 pounds), and is capable of throttling between 67% and 109% of its power rated level in 1% increments.

10. Delta lV Heavy Powerful Rocket Engine


Delta lV Heavy (United Launch Alliance)

United Launch Alliance owns Delta IV Heavy. It is 235 feet high and is taller than the Falcon Heavy. The US military uses the launcher to carry security satellites into orbit.  It has a liftoff thrust of 2.1 million pounds and can carry a payload of 62,500 pounds into LEO.

RS-68 rocket engines power each of the three cores of the Delta IV Heavy. The Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68 was designed to be less costly and more powerful than the Space Shuttle’s RS-25 main engines. This liquid-fuel rocket engine runs on a cryogenic fuel mix of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.


An RS-68 engine undergoing hot-fire testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center during its developmental phase. The nearly transparent exhaust is due to this engine’s exhaust being mostly superheated steam (water vapor from its propellants, hydrogen and oxygen)
(Image: NASA)

The original RS-86 version is gimbaled hydraulically and is capable of throttling between 58% and 102% thrust. It produces 2,950 kN (663,000 pounds-force) thrust at sea level.

At its maximum 102% thrust, RS-86 produces 3,370 kN (758,000 pounds-force) in a vacuum and 2,950 kN (663,000 lbf) at sea level. The engine’s mass is 14,560 pounds (6,600 kg). With this thrust, the engine has a thrust-to-weight ratio of 51.2 and a specific impulse of 410 seconds (4.0 km/s) in a vacuum and 365 seconds (3.58 km/s) at sea level.

An improved version of the RS-86 produces 3,140 kN (705,000 lbf) thrust at sea level and 3,560 kN (800,000 lbf) thrust in a vacuum.