NASA launched its final pair of hurricane-tracking CubeSats from the Rocket Lab complex in New Zealand on May 25, completing the constellation.
The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission will study tropical cyclones to improve forecasting for hurricanes and typhoons.
The launch follows the successful deployment of two other small TROPICS satellites on May 8, 2023.
Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, said, “As a lifelong Floridian, I know first hand how critical it is for millions of Americans to have timely and accurate forecasts for hurricanes. More intense rainfall and increased coastal flooding are devastating livelihoods and taking lives, demonstrating the importance of NASA’s cutting-edge science to help answer questions that nobody else can. With missions like TROPICS, NASA continues to lead the way in getting satellite data more quickly to our partners like the National Hurricane Center and Joint Typhoon Warning Center, providing vital forecasts that help our communities before, during and after landfall.”
Karen St. Germain, head of NASA’s Earth Science Division, added, “As we move into hurricane season for 2023, TROPICS will be in position to provide unprecedented detail on these storms, helping us better understand how they form, intensify and move across the ocean. We rely on targeted, innovative missions like this to help create a robust Earth science portfolio.”
TROPICS is a constellation of four identical CubeSats designed to observe tropical cyclones in a unique, inclined low Earth orbit over Earth’s tropics – an orbit that allows them to travel over any given storm about once an hour. Current weather tracking satellites have a timing of about once every six hours.
William Blackwell, the mission’s principal investigator at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, commented, “We are very excited to have the four satellites launched. We expect the new observing capabilities from TROPICS will improve our understanding of tropical cyclones and our ability to predict their track and intensity.”
In addition to Blackwell, the TROPICS team includes researchers from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and several universities and commercial partners. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is managing the launch service.
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