The second set of NASA’s Tropics cubes was launched Thursday evening (May 25), completing the mini-proxy hurricane study.
The two small moons took off over A Rocket lab An electronic vehicle from Launch Company Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s North Island on Thursday at 11:46 p.m. EDT (0346 GMT May 26).
Electron deployed the cubesat pair as planned about 34 minutes after liftoff, Rocket Lab confirmed via Twitter.
The launch was originally targeted for midnight EST (0400 GMT) on Thursday, but Rocket Lab Push it back about 24 hours due to bad weather.
The launch, dubbed “Coming to a Storm Near You,” was the second Rocket Lab has done for TROPICS programwhose name is an acronym for “Time-resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of Minor Planets.”
Related: Facts about Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket
Payload Deployment Confirmed! Congratulations to the Launch Team on our 37th Electron launch, and to our mission partners @NASANASA_LSPNASAAmes: the TROPICS constellation is officially in orbit! pic.twitter.com/xAy7ltg7m1May 26, 2023
Rocket Lab’s previous launch, called “Rocket Like a Hurricane,” sent two cubes from the four constellation spacecraft into low Earth orbit. on May 7th. It is hoped that the four satellites will be operational in time for the start of the hurricane season in 2023 in North America.
“The number of hurricanes we see each year is increasing because Climate changeThe intensity of these storms is also increasing, said Jane MacNicol, Rocket Lab’s mission manager, during a pre-opening press conference on May 7.
“The current technology we have in orbit to monitor hurricane development may only be able to check on these storms every two hours, but within that time, we may see their intensity increase slightly,” she added.
MacNicol said Tropics will investigate severe tropical storms for precipitation, temperature and humidity approximately every hour. She stressed that such data has the potential to save lives and livelihoods.
The Tropix Cubes are located in a unique low Earth orbit above the planet’s equatorial regions. Their orbit is tilted in such a way that they travel over any given storm about once an hour.
NASA officials said the rapidly updating microwave measurements that TROPICS will make are a big boost. Existing weather-tracking satellites can make similar measurements, but only once every six hours.
“Providing more frequent imaging will not only improve our situational awareness when a tornado forms,” Karen St. Germain, director of the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said. he said in a statement earlier this month. “The data will provide information to models that help us determine how the storm is changing over time, which in turn helps improve forecasts from our partners like the National Hurricane Center and the Joint Hurricane Warning Center.”
Rocket Lab is the second company to launch TROPICS cubesats. Astra I, based in California, attempted to lift two of them in June 2022, but its rocket suffered an in-flight anomaly and lost cubes. NASA then selected Rocket Lab to launch the four remaining TROPICS vehicles during two missions.
Originally scheduled to launch from the Rocket Lab site in the US, at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the two flights will be launched later this year. But the site has been moved to the New Zealand location so that the four Tropix cubes can fly in sooner and be ready for the Northern Hemisphere storm season.
The constellation TROPICS orbits Earth at an altitude of about 342 miles (550 kilometers) at an inclination of about 30 degrees. All four units in the constellation must be deployed within 60 days to be effective.
Will McCarty, Tropics mission program scientist, said Statement on April 10th. “Historically, satellites have been too large and too expensive to provide observations at a time frequency consistent with the timescales on which tropical cyclones can develop.”
McCarty added that the Cube era allowed for smaller, less expensive satellites, allowing for constellation design that improves the scientific utility of the mission and facilitates low-cost launches.
“These factors enable Tropics to provide a new understanding of tropical cyclones by reducing the time a given storm is revisited by satellite,” he said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:15pm ET on May 24th with a new target launch time of 11:30pm ET on May 25th, and then again at 1am ET on May 26th with news of the successful launch. and satellite deployment.