Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket sits on the pad at the company’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand for a previous launch. Photo courtesy of Rocket Lab
May 19 (UPI) -- A new pair of NASA weather satellites is ready for a ride into Earth orbit Monday from New Zealand. The launch time for the mission, called "Coming to a Storm Near You," is 1:30 a.m. EDT.
Called TROPICS, the Nos. 5 and 6 satellites are part of a constellation of extreme weather observatories, also known as CubeSats because of their small size and low weight.
The first successful TROPICS launch occurred May 7 from New Zealand after an initial launch failure in 2022.
NASA chose Rocket Lab, a company that launches from that Pacific island nation, for the missions. The launch site makes it possible to achieve low-Earth orbital paths for the majority of missions the satellite industry needs, the space agency said.
NASA's main goal is to keep an eye on the formation of sudden weather phenomena, mainly hurricanes and cyclones to improve forecasts given the severe impact they can have on the regions they hit.
NASA selected Rocket Lab to launch the TROPICS as part of Venture-class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare, which is part of the Earth System Science Pathfinder Program.
The CubeSats require launch to orbital altitudes of 342 miles, inclined 30-degrees from the Equator.
Reaching the planned useful orbits within a 60-day period makes the Electron rocket the best available choice for the U.S. 2023 hurricane season, officials said.
Each TROPICS satellite carries a high-performance radiometer monitor that scans across the satellite track at 30 revolutions per minute.
This observing system provides a combination of horizontal resolution related to time, while measuring environmental conditions in the cores of tropical cyclones in a nearly global scale.
Unlike during previous missions, Rocket Lab will not attempt to recover Electron's first stage.
Operating a private orbital launch site, alongside its own range and mission control centers, helps Rocket Lab to contain mission costs, which makes affordable and effective launch services, company officials said.