The first of two launches to deploy tropical cyclone-monitoring satellites for NASA was successfully completed by Rocket Lab. Dubbed “Rocket like a Hurricane,” the launch carried two of the four CubeSats that make up the TROPICS constellation.
The formation and evolution of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes, will be monitored by TROPICS, providing updated observations of storm intensity. The Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket took off from Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand at 9 p.m. ET on May 7 for the “Rocket like a Hurricane Mission.”
Designed to monitor the development of tropical storms, the TROPICS CubeSats were placed into a 550-kilometer orbit at an inclination of 32 degrees. Part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program, the TROPICS constellation requires precision to ensure each pair of CubeSats reaches specific, unique orbits over Earth’s tropics.
Six times faster than most current weather tracking systems, the satellite will travel over any given storm about once an hour. Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO, said the TROPICS constellation has the potential to save lives by providing more timely data about storm intensity and giving advance warning to those in storm paths.
All four TROPICS satellites must reach operational orbit within 60 days of each other. Dubbed “Coming to a Storm Near You,” the second launch is expected to launch in approximately 2 weeks. Hourly updates that will help monitor hurricane formation as well as other tropical weather systems will be provided by the system.
A microwave radiometer on each satellite that measures temperature and water vapor profiles will be used by the TROPICS consolation. The scientists will better understand the processes that affect high-impact storms with the help of the “high rate” of the satellites.
The precision required for the TROPICS constellation was achieved by Rocket Lab’s electron booster. The previous attempt by the Rocket Lab to send the first of the small satellites into space failed almost a year ago.
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, expressed gratitude to the NASA team for entrusting them with such a critical mission. Rocket Lab has successfully placed the first batch of TROPICS satellites, to be followed by the second launch in the coming days.
Advance warning will be provided by the TROPICS after they start their operations, potentially saving lives by providing more timely data about storm intensity.