NASA Mini Satellites Will Help Track Hurricanes

NASA Mini Satellites Will Help Track Hurricanes

CLIMATEWIRE | NASA wants to know more about climate-juiced hurricanes.

To help with that effort, the space agency on Thursday night plans to launch two small satellites, called “CubeSats,” into orbit roughly 350 miles above the Earth, where they should help scientists better understand what NASA calls “high-impact meteorological events,” or tropical storms.

A scheduled launch at midnight eastern on Thursday was scrubbed because of “strong upper-level winds,” the agency said. NASA plans to try again at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The CubeSats — roughly the size of a shoebox — will join two similar satellites launched in May to form a constellation to observe “the formation and evolution of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes, and will provide rapidly updating observations of storm intensity,” according to experts with Rocket Lab USA Inc., a NASA private-sector partner that will send the satellites into space.

The NASA mission was downscaled from an originally planned six CubeSats after a June 2022 launch failure at Cape Canaveral, Fla., of a rocket made by Astra Space Inc. NASA rebid contracts for the remaining launches, and Rocket Lab won the contract.

The research mission, a joint effort with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, is called TROPICS — short for “Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats.” NASA expects meteorological data collected from the satellites will help explain how and why some tropical storms intensify as they approach land.

According to NASA, scientists will observe temperature profiles in space that would be favorable to storm formation at the Earth’s surface, then use a weather prediction model and radiometric imagery to better predict how such storms would behave.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said the mission “aims to equip scientists and researchers with more accurate and timely storm data to provide better forecasts and advance warning to those in the path of devastating cyclones and hurricanes.”

NASA said the mission represents “profound leap forward” in studying tropical systems and “offers an unprecedented combination of horizontal and temporal resolution to measure environmental and inner-core conditions for tropical cyclones on a nearly global scale.”

Rocket Lab nicknamed the latest launch “Coming to a Storm Near You.” It is scheduled to fly from a launch complex on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.

The first launch, on May 8, was called “Rocket Like a Hurricane.”

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.

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