NASA and US aerospace company Rocket Lab are set to launch to launch two new storm tracking CubeSats from New Zealand at 9pm (EDT) on April 30, 2023.
The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission has a two-hour window from Launch Complex 1 in Māhia.
TROPICS is a constellation of four identical CubeSats designed to observe tropical cyclones from low-Earth orbit, making observations more frequently than current weather tracking satellites. Both payloads, each carrying a pair of CubeSats, will launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket.
A second launch from Rocket Lab with two additional CubeSats is targeted for May 16, with exact launch times contingent on the date and time of the first launch.
TROPICS will study tropical cyclones as part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program and should increase understanding of the processes driving rapid changes in storm structure and integrity. NASA plans to have the CubeSats distributed evenly in two low-Earth orbital planes about 340 miles (550km) above the Earth’s surface.
TROPICS has the potential to provide roughly hourly observations of a storm’s precipitation, temperature and humidity, compared to about every six hours with current satellites. Gathering data more frequently can help scientists improve weather forecasting models.