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SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket — the most powerful rocket flying today — lofted a communications satellite to orbit from Florida on Thursday evening, before coming in for a soft landing back on Earth.

Why it matters: While SpaceX's first Falcon Heavy launch in February 2018 was a successful proof of concept, this launch marks the first time the rocket has actually delivered a payload to orbit for a paying customer. It also is the first time the Elon Musk-founded company successfully recovered 3 rocket stages at once.

After sending the satellite to orbit, the rocket's three boosters — two side boosters and a core stage — turned around and came back down for landings on Earth.

  • The two side boosters landed back on solid ground in Florida, while the core stage landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • These rocket landings aren't just for show, they're a big part of SpaceX's business plan, which centers on landing, refurbishing and reflying boosters in order to drive down the cost of launching to space.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Details: Before landing, Falcon Heavy delivered the communications satellite Arabsat-6A to space for Saudi Arabia.

  • This rocket represents an upgrade from the first Falcon Heavy that launched a Tesla Roadster to orbit last year. According to SpaceX, the modified rocket generates about 5 million pounds of thrust during launch.
  • The Falcon Heavy is basically three of the company's Falcon 9 rockets strapped together.

The bottom line: This successful launch could help SpaceX garner more customers for its Falcon Heavy rocket. While the Falcon 9 consistently launches payloads to orbit every month or so, the Falcon Heavy is the new rocket on the block.

  • Although the big rocket has a few missions on the books for the Air Force, Inmarsat, and Viasat, commercial missions like this one will go a long way toward proving its reliability.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."