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NASA’s Climate Change Research Mission Girds for Two Consecutive Rocket Lab CubeSat Launches

Twin-mission setup

NASA’s Climate Change Research Mission Girds for Two Consecutive Rocket Lab CubeSat Launches

Rocket Lab is priming two of its Electron rockets for consecutive launches of NASA’s Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment, a twin mission focused on climate change research. 

The first mission, dubbed “Ready, Aim, PREFIRE,” is scheduled for launch as early as May 22, with its twin, called “PREFIRE And Ice,” following within three weeks after the first mission’s deployment. 

Each mission will send a 6U cube satellite from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand, into 525-kilometer circular Earth orbits. Each PREFIRE satellite is designed for a 10-month mission, Rocket Lab said Monday.

PREFIRE aims to deliver for the first time data on heat lost from Earth’s polar regions, systematically measured in infrared and far-infrared wavelengths. Arctic and Antarctic climate influences weather outcomes worldwide, including heavy storms, floods and coastal erosion. The thermal infrared radiation data from the PREFIRE mission will be used to develop more accurate climate models to help forecast climatic changes arising from global warming.

Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, said achieving PREFIRE’s science objectives requires precise satellite deployments, a capability wherein the company’s “Electron really thrives as the leading launch provider for dedicated small satellite missions.”

In August 2023, Rocket Lab won the launch contract for PREFIRE, which is a collaborative project involving the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Colorado Boulder. With PREFIRE, Rocket Lab will deliver its 48th and 49th Electron launches overall and its sixth and seventh launches for 2024. 

The most recent Electron launch on April 23 deployed two of NASA’s ACS3 miniature satellites on separate orbits to test solar sail propulsion systems for spacecraft and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology’s nanosatellite for monitoring natural disasters on the Korean Peninsula.

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Category: Space

Tags: climate change Electron global warming NASA Peter Beck Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment Rocket Lab USA satellite mission space