Information collected by the new satellites on precipitation, temperature and humidity can help improve weather forecasts, particularly of where a hurricane will make landfall and with what intensity, and thus better prepare for potential evacuations of coastal populations.
On Monday, the American company, Rocket Lab, successfully launched the first batch of “Tropics” satellites affiliated with the US Space Agency (NASA) to monitor the development of hurricanes hour by hour.
The Electron rocket, which was launched from New Zealand carrying two small storm-tracking satellites, managed to reach orbit just minutes after take-off.
The missile, which belongs to the category of small launchers and has a height of 18 meters, took off at 13:00 local time (01:00 GMT) from Mahia in northern New Zealand, according to the company, “Rocket Lab”.
The weight of the two satellites, which are of the “CubeSat” category, do not exceed five kilograms, and they will be stationed at an altitude of about 550 km. Within about two weeks, a second rocket will be launched, also belonging to the “Rocket Lab” company, carrying two other satellites to complete this small constellation.
This constellation of satellites will be able to pass over Pacific typhoons every hour, while they currently pass every six hours. The mission is called “Tropics”.
Information collected by the new satellites on precipitation, temperature and humidity can help improve weather forecasts, particularly where the hurricane will make landfall and with what intensity, thus better preparing for potential evacuations of coastal residents.
NASA scientist Will McCarty said in a press conference that these satellites will allow scientists not only to “monitor what is happening at a specific moment (…) but to know how the situation changes hour by hour.”
“We will still need large satellites (…) but what we can get from this mission is additional information to that already provided by our most prominent satellites,” he added.
NASA released a video showing the launch of the rocket from Mahia, New Zealand on a sunny afternoon.
The constellation was originally supposed to include six satellites instead of four, but the first two were lost when a US-made Astra rocket failed shortly after take-off last year.
And in June 2022, two small NASA satellites launched with the aim of studying hurricanes failed to reach orbit due to a malfunction that occurred shortly after take-off, the “Astra” missile that was transporting them.
Hurricane Ian, which swept Florida in 2022, killed dozens, and caused losses of more than $100 billion, the largest climate disaster the world witnessed last year.