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Rocket Lab launches 2nd pair of CubeSats for NASA’s TROPICS mission; NASA Completes 1st Globetrotting SuperBIT Balloon Flight

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Rocket Lab launches two shoebox-sized satellites for NASA's storm-tracking TROPICS mission

On May 25, 2023, the Rocket Lab USA Inc.’s Electron two-stage rocket launched the second and final pair of shoebox-sized weather-tracking satellites called CubeSats for NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats) mission from Launch Complex 1 at Māhia Peninsula, New Zealand.

  • The CubeSats were launched to low Earth orbit to collect tropical storm data more frequently than other weather satellites and improve tropical cyclone forecasts.
  • The launch was named ‘Coming To A Storm Near You’.
  • The current launch was Rocket Lab’s 37th Electron launch overall. It brings the total number of satellites launched into orbit by Rocket Lab to 163.

Key Points:

i.The current launch marks the second TROPICS launch for NASA, following Rocket Lab’s first pair of CubeSats namely ‘Rocket Like A Hurricane’ was launched on May 7, 2023, from Mahia by Electron Rocket.

  • TROPICS, NASA’s mission will study tropical cyclones and improve forecasting for hurricanes and typhoons.

ii.The four CubeSats are a part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program which require launch to a specific orbit at an altitude of 550 kilometres and inclination of about 30 degrees.

What will TROPICS do?

TROPICS will monitor the formation and evolution of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes, and will provide near-hourly data updates on storm intensity. It will observe temperature, precipitation, water vapour, and cloud ice more often. This information will help scientists understand the processes that affect these high-impact storms which led to improved modeling and prediction.

SuperBIT balloon became 1st science mission of NASA to complete two full revolutions of the Southern Hemisphere

On May 25, 2023, NASA’s globetrotting SuperBIT balloon carrying the Super Pressure Balloon Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT) successfully completed a flight test after returning to Earth. With this, it became the first science mission of NASA to complete two full revolutions of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) floating at mid-latitudes.

  • The mission was completed in 39 days and 14 hours began on April 16 from New Zealand’s Wānaka Airport and was completed on May 25.
  • It was an 18.8-million-cubic-foot (532,000-cubic-meter) balloon.


To capture images of galaxies in the visible-to-near ultraviolet light spectrum, with a goal to map dark matter around galaxy clusters

Key Points:

i.The balloon completed five full circuits about the Southern Hemisphere during its journey while floating at mid-latitudes.

ii.The next mission for NASA’s balloon program is a science mission launching from it’s Columbia scientific balloon facility in July 2023.

iii.The scientific balloon flight program is controlled by the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and conducts around 10 to 15 flights each year from launch sites worldwide.

iv.Peraton, which operates NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) in Texas, provides mission planning, engineering services, and field operations for NASA’s scientific balloon program.

v.The CSBF team has launched more than 1,700 scientific balloons over some 40 years of operations. NASA’s balloons are fabricated by Aerostar.

Recent Related News:

i.On 8th March 2023, NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) (NISAR), an Earth-observation satellite, was handed over to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California, United States of America(USA).

ii.On 2nd March 2023, SpaceX launched its Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) with 4 astronauts on board reusable SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket from the NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration)’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, United States of America(USA).

About National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA):

NASA is an independent agency of the government of the United States of America(USA) which is responsible for the civil space program, aeronautics research, and space research.

Administrator– Bill Nelson
Headquarters– Washington, D.C., USA