With the deployment of two TROPICS CubeSats from a Rocket Lab Electron rocket, Rocket Lab has successfully launched the first batch of TROPICS Satellites for NASA. The team will be working toward signal acquisition from the pair of TROPICS CubeSats. NASA will continue to assess data from periodic pass opportunities. It is not unexpected for CubeSats to take some time to establish communications.
The ‘Rocket Like a Hurricane’ launch lifted off on May 8th. at 13:00 NZST (01:00 UTC) from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, deploying two of the four CubeSats that comprise the TROPICS constellation. TROPICS will monitor the formation and evolution of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes, and will provide rapidly updating observations of storm intensity.
Working Toward Signal Acquisition
The constellation, which is a component of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program, has to be launched at a height of 550 kilometers with a 30-degree inclination. To enhance the temporal resolution, each pair of CubeSats must be launched into two distinct orbital planes that are equally spaced and 180 degrees apart. Unlike the present weather tracking satellites, which have a timing of around once every six hours, these special orbits over the tropics of Earth allow the satellites to pass over each given storm nearly once per hour.
With a greater understanding of the mechanisms influencing these powerful storms, scientists will be better able to model and anticipate future events and safeguard people’s lives and livelihoods. To meet the mission requirement, all four TROPICS satellites must be launched into their operational orbit within a 60-day window using a small dedicated launch.
The second launch, dubbed “Coming to a Storm Near You,” is anticipated to launch on another Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1 in roughly two weeks after the first batch of TROPICS CubeSats was successfully sent into orbit.
TROPICS Have the Potential to Save Lives
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, said by providing residents in storm pathways with earlier warnings and more timely information regarding storm strength, the TROPICS constellation can truly save lives.
“The TROPICS constellation has the real potential to save lives by providing more timely data about storm intensity and providing a warning to those in storm paths, so it’s an immense privilege to have deployed these spacecraft to their precise orbits before the upcoming storm season.
We’re grateful to the NASA team for entrusting us with such a critical mission and we look forward to completing the constellation with the second Electron launch in the coming days.”
Ben Kim, TROPICS program executive for NASA’s Earth Science Division, on the other hand, affirmed that they e are extremely proud of all our partners, including MIT Lincoln Labs, Blue Canyon Technologies, KSAT, and Rocket Lab for successfully executing this first launch. We look forward to the entire constellation orbiton-orbit to realize the benefits for the agency, as well as for our colleagues around the world.