After a weather delay, a pair of small weather tracking satellites are ready to launch to space aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1 in Māhia, New Zealand a few hours from now. NASA’s TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats) mission is sending a pair of shoebox-sized satellites, called CubeSats, to low Earth orbit to collect tropical storm data more frequently than other weather satellites.
TROPICS will 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 70-minute launch window opens at no earlier than 11:30 p.m. EDT Thursday, May 25, (3:30 p.m. NZST Friday, May 26th).
Once deployed, the two CubeSats from today’s launch will join the TROPICS CubeSats already in orbit in two equally spaced orbital planes, which will distribute them for optimal coverage over the Earth. The orbiting TROPICS constellation of satellites will study the formation and development of tropical cyclones, known as hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the West Pacific, making observations of temperature, precipitation, water vapor, and cloud ice more often than what is possible with current weather satellites. With the four TROPICS satellites in orbit, they will join the TROPICS Pathfinder satellite, in orbit since its launch in June of 2021.
This launch, named Coming To A Storm Near You, marks the second of two TROPICS launches for NASA, following Rocket Lab’s first launch from this same launch pad at 9 p.m. EDT Sunday, May 7, (1 p.m. Monday, May 8, New Zealand Standard Time).
Follow launch updates on NASA’s Small Satellite Missions blog and stay connected with the mission on social media.