Time Plus News

Breaking News, Latest News, World News, Headlines and Videos

NASA has launched two satellites to study tropical storms

Rocket Lab launched two toaster-sized satellites for NASA on Sunday, the first of four “CubeSats” designed to provide hourly updates on typhoon and hurricane development and provide new insights into how tropical storms develop and intensify. Done


An Electron rocket blasts off from the rocket lab’s scenic Mahia, New Zealand, launch site, carrying two small NASA satellites designed to monitor tropical storm development.

Rocket Lab

“The threat to our friends and neighbors is real and recurring every year,” said Ben Kim, a program executive in NASA’s Earth Science Division. The Tropics mission, he said, “is to improve our scientific understanding through microwave observations that allow us to see the internal structure of these storms on an almost hourly basis.

“These observations will complement existing weather satellites and may eventually tie into a broader understanding of the entire Earth system.”

TROPICS, one of NASA’s more complex acronyms, is time-resolved observations of precipitation structure and storm intensity with a constellation of small sats. The bargain-basement $30 million mission takes advantage of the evolution of cubesats capable of miniature electronics and big-ticket science.

CubeSats are not intended to replace larger, more powerful and much more expensive weather satellites. But they offer a low-cost way to augment these “flagship” missions with complementary science and a much shorter development time.

“We use a balanced mission portfolio that ranges from really large observatories, like Landsat 9 at about 6,000 pounds, to very small satellites like TROPICS at about 12 pounds.”

“This mix within our portfolio allows us to maximize science per taxpayer dollar and thus do more science than if we focused only on large missions.”

The first two of the six planned Tropics CubeSats were lost last year when their Astra rockets failed during ascent into space. NASA then moved the remaining four CubeSats to Rocket Lab’s more reliable Electron to reach orbit in time for this year’s tropical storm season.

Delayed by nearly a week due to stormy weather, the first of two remaining missions took a picture-perfect liftoff from Rocket Lab’s picturesque Mahia, New Zealand, launch site at 9 p.m. EDT on Sunday.


An artist’s impression of a NASA TROPICS satellite studying a tropical storm from orbit Four such satellites will enable hourly passes over the cyclone to help scientists learn more about how the storm develops and develops.


The 59-foot-tall carbon-composite rocket’s nine 3D-printed Rutherford engines pushed the booster away from the lower atmosphere before moving into the rocket’s second stage, which placed the craft in an initial parking orbit at nine-and-a-half. – Half a minute after lifting.

A third “kick” stage then completed the task, leaving Tropics 3 and 4 to fly on their own about 33 minutes after launch. It was Rocket Lab’s 36th Electron launch and the 16th successful flight in a row.

If all goes well, Rocket Lab will launch Tropics 5 and 6 before the end of the month to complete a four-satellite constellation. All four satellites will operate in a 341-mile-high orbit that bears about 30 degrees either side of the equator, ideal for hourly “review” monitoring of developing storms.

William Blackwell, principal investigator for the Tropics at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, said microwave observations of growing storms, which CubeSats make rapidly, are critical to understanding the development and behavior of tropical storms.
“We’ve been doing (such observations) from space for 40 years, but the thing that has eluded us is this ability to capture storm dynamics,” he said. “So this new hourly cadence with this constellation will really move us forward in terms of how the observations can explain how the storm is changing.”

The observations, combined with data collected by larger, more powerful weather satellites, are expected to “improve understanding of the fundamental processes that drive storms and ultimately improve our ability to predict track and intensity.”

More William Harwood


Source link