Weather 70% Favorable for Launch

Weather officials with Rocket Lab predict a 70% percent chance of favorable weather for today’s launch of NASA’s TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats) mission.

The primary weather concern for today’s launch is a low probability of violation (POV) for cumulus/disturbed weather and low-moderate POV for ground winds.

TROPICS CubeSats make more frequent passes of tropical cyclones than current weather satellites. The CubeSats use different wavelengths to see different features of storms and in their surrounding environment. This provides data that will help scientists better understand the processes that effect these high-impact storms, ultimately leading to improved modeling and prediction.

Follow launch updates on this blog and stay connected with the mission on social media.

Twitter: @NASA_LSP, @NASAEarth, @NASAKennedy, @NASA, @RocketLab

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Welcome to Launch Day for NASA’s TROPICS

It’s launch day for NASA’s TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats) mission! A pair of small satellites wait atop a Rocket Lab Electron rocket for liftoff from Launch Complex 1 in Māhia, New Zealand. This launch, named Rocket Like A Hurricane, is the first of two planned launches, each sending a pair of shoebox-sized satellites, called CubeSats, to low-Earth orbit, where they will more frequently collect data to help increase understanding of these deadly storms and improve tropical cyclone forecasts complementing other NASA and partner satellites, including the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Mission and the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP).

A two-hour launch window opens at 9 p.m. EDT Sunday, May 7, (1 p.m. Monday, May 8, New Zealand Standard Time).

Together the two launches will attempt to place four CubeSats in two equally spaced orbital planes, so they are spread over the globe for optimal coverage. The CubeSats will study the formation and development of tropical cyclones, known as hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the West Pacific. The full TROPICS constellation will make observations more often than what is possible with current weather satellites. When they reach orbit, these TROPICS satellites will join the TROPICS Pathfinder satellite which is already in orbit.

All four TROPICS satellites need to be deployed into their operational orbit within a 60-day period. The TROPICS satellites will cover the part of the Earth where tropical cyclones form and will work in concert to improve observations of the powerful storms. The distribution of the satellites means that one should pass over any spot in an area stretching from the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States to the southern coast of Australia about once an hour. TROPICS will provide data on temperature, precipitation, water vapor, and clouds by measuring microwave frequencies, providing insight into storm formation and intensification. This new data, coupled with information collected from other weather satellites, will increase understanding of tropical cyclones, and should improve forecasting models.

Follow launch updates on this blog and stay connected with the mission on social media.

Twitter: @NASA_LSP, @NASAEarth, @NASAKennedy, @NASA, @RocketLab
Facebook: NASA, NASA LSP, RocketLabUSA
Instagram: @NASA, @NASAEarth, @RocketLabUSA

Team Continues to Troubleshoot Propulsion for NASA’s Lunar Flashlight

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight operations team continues to work on remedying the CubeSat’s underperforming propulsion system. They developed a method to get one of the CubeSat’s four thrusters to deliver more thrust; however, the small spacecraft will need additional, more consistent thrust in the next few days to reach its revised target orbit.

Devised by team members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, Georgia Tech, and the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the new method involves trying to clear the thruster fuel lines of suspected obstructions by increasing fuel pump pressure far beyond the system’s operational limit while opening and closing the system’s valves. After some improvement with one spacecraft thruster, the team is now attempting this method on the other three thrusters. This has resulted in limited success, with the remaining thrusters inconsistently producing some increased levels of thrust.

The CubeSat is currently beyond the Moon’s orbit, more than half a million miles from Earth and looping back toward our planet. To carry out monthly flybys of the lunar South Pole to look for surface ice inside permanently shadowed craters, the team needs to nudge Lunar Flashlight into a trajectory that will allow it to arrive in the required Earth-Moon orbit. They need more reliable thrust for the next few days to achieve that goal.

The mission’s miniaturized propulsion system is a technology demonstration that has never been flown in space before. Technology demonstrations are high-risk, high-reward endeavors intended to push the frontiers of space technology. The lessons learned from these challenges will help to inform future missions that advance this technology.

The other systems aboard Lunar Flashlight continue to perform well.

Lunar Flashlight is funded by the Small Spacecraft Technology program based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.