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The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launches onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA.

NASA has two new eyes in the sky after SpaceX successfully deployed a pair of sensitive spacecrafts that can detect tiny changes in the Earth's gravitational field.

Why it matters: Known as the GRACE-FO mission, for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On, the satellites will provide scientists with crucial data for tracking climate change.

The details: The satellites, which were deployed atop a reused SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 3:47 p.m. ET., are capable of detecting changes in groundwater availability worldwide, giving early warning to security agencies about potential areas of political instability due to potential conflict over natural resources.

  • The GRACE-FO mission, which is technically a joint mission between the U.S. and Germany, will also be used to answer critical questions about how quickly and extensively the planet's ice sheets are melting. The first GRACE mission helped scientists discover the quickening pace at which Greenland and parts of Antarctica are losing mass, which is raising sea levels worldwide.

Be smart: According to NASA, the twin satellites will follow each other in orbit around the Earth, separated by about 137 miles (220 km.) As they do so, they will send microwave signals to each other. Areas of slightly stronger gravity (more mass) as well as slightly weaker gravity will change this distance slightly. By using these changes, they will enable scientists to map water resources, ice sheets, and potentially discover other applications as well.

Go deeper: First map of global freshwater trends shows "human fingerprint."

Go deeper

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.

U.S. Chamber decides against political ban for Capitol insurrection

A pedestrian passes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters as it undergoes renovation. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealed Friday it won't withhold political donations from lawmakers who simply voted against certifying the presidential election results and instead decide on a case-by-case basis.

Why it matters: The Chamber is the marquee entity representing businesses and their interests in Washington. Its memo, obtained exclusively by Axios, could set the tone for businesses debating how to handle their candidate and PAC spending following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.