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The Falcon 9 rocket taking flight. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX just launched 143 payloads to orbit, setting a new record for the most ever launched on a single rocket.

Why it matters: This launch is part of SpaceX's bid to get a piece of the growing market to launch small satellites to orbit.

Where it stands: The Falcon 9 rocket — which launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida — was effectively a rideshare for the dozens of commercial spacecraft packed into it.

  • The satellites launched on this mission included 48 Earth-gazing satellites from Planet, human ashes aboard a Celestis Inc. flight, 10 Starlink satellites and other small spacecraft from a variety of customers.
  • The Falcon 9's first stage booster, which landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic, had been to space four times before this launch, including launching SpaceX's first crewed mission last summer.

The intrigue: Typically, small satellites are launched as secondary payloads when larger satellites have extra room aboard their rockets, but this rideshare launch was different.

  • Instead of being forced to wait for a large payload to be ready, this mission was designed to fly at a scheduled date, meaning that as long as the small satellites were ready, they could fly on time.
  • Also, you can book a ride for your satellite online, in true SpaceX fashion.

The big picture: Other rocket companies — like Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit — launch dedicated missions for small payloads like these, but SpaceX is positioning itself as a potentially cheaper alternative for customers that may not need a dedicated launch.

Go deeper

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

5 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios