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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

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

7 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."