NASA has announced that it will launch the first two of six small satellites as part of its Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission no earlier than June 12, 2022.
The two CubeSats will launch aboard Astra Space’s Rocket 3.3 from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
TROPICS is a constellation of six CubeSats in three low-Earth orbit planes that will study tropical cyclones, increasing understanding of the processes driving rapid changes in storm structure and integrity. The project has the potential to provide near-hourly observations of a storm’s precipitation, temperature and humidity. This data can help scientists improve weather forecasting models.
Astra will launch the other four CubeSats in two separate launches later this summer.
The TROPICS team is led by Bill Blackwell at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, and includes researchers from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and several universities and commercial partners. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will manage the launch service.
Blackwell said, “With the TROPICS constellation, we’ll have much more frequent observations of tropical cyclones, and in wavelengths that can help us understand thermodynamic structure in the eye and in the storm environment.”