Space Commerce

Rocket Lab Successfully Launches Second Batch of TROPICS Satellites for NASA

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
Rocket Lab
May 26, 2023
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Rocket Lab Successfully Launches Second Batch of TROPICS Satellites for NASA
Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today successfully completed the second of two dedicated Electron launches to deploy a constellation of tropical cyclone monitoring satellites for NASA.

The Coming To A Storm Near You launch lifted-off on May 26 at 15:46 NZST (03:46 UTC) from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, deploying the final two CubeSats of NASA’s TROPICS constellation (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats) to orbit. ‘Coming To A Storm Near You’ is Rocket Lab’s second of two TROPICS launches for NASA, following the first launch on May 8th NZST. Like the previous launch, ‘Coming To A Storm Near You’ deployed a pair of shoebox-sized satellites to low Earth orbit to collect tropical storm data more frequently than other weather satellites. The constellation aims to help increase understanding of deadly storms and improve tropical cyclone forecasts

The TROPICS CubeSats required launch to a specific orbit at an altitude of 550 kilometers and inclination of about 30 degrees, with all four satellites needing to be deployed into their operational orbit within a 60-day period ahead. Rocket Lab has now launched all four satellites across two dedicated launches within 18 days, enabling the TROPICS satellites to settle into their orbits and begin commissioning ahead of the 2023 North American storm season which begins in June. While the TROPICS launches were Rocket Lab’s 36th and 37th launches, they were unique from most of the Company’s other missions to low Earth orbit due to the 30 degree inclination requirement. To reach such a low inclination from Launch Complex 1, Rocket Lab used Electron’s second stage to place the Kick Stage and TROPICS satellites into a circular orbit, and the Kick Stage’s Curie engine carried out a plane change maneuver to position the TROPICS satellites at 30 degrees.

“Electron was developed for exactly these kids of missions – to deploy spacecraft reliably and on rapid timelines to precise and bespoke orbits, so we’re proud to have delivered that for NASA across both TROPICS launches and meet the deadline for getting TROPICS to orbit in time for the 2023 storm season,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “Thank you to the team at NASA for entrusting us with such an important science mission, we’re grateful to be your mission launch providers once again.”

“We needed multiple launches for this mission,” said Dr. Will McCarty, program scientist, NASA’s Earth Science Division. “Rocket Lab provided the ability to have the TROPICS CubeSats serve as that primary payload and thus define the orbit based on our scientific objectives.”

‘Coming To A Storm Near You’ was Rocket Lab’s fifth mission for 2023 and the Company’s 37th Electron mission overall. It brings the total number of satellites launched to orbit by Rocket Lab to 163.

Follow Rocket Lab on Twitter @RocketLab for real-time updates on upcoming missions.

About Rocket Lab

Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab is an end-to-end space company with an established track record of mission success. We deliver reliable launch services, satellite manufacture, spacecraft components, and on-orbit management solutions that make it faster, easier and more affordable to access space. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron small orbital launch vehicle, the Photon satellite platform and the Company is developing the large Neutron launch vehicle for constellation deployment. Since its first orbital launch in January 2018, Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle has become the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually and has delivered 163 satellites to orbit for private and public sector organizations, enabling operations in national security, scientific research, space debris mitigation, Earth observation, climate monitoring, and communications. Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft platform has been selected to support NASA missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as the first private commercial mission to Venus. Rocket Lab has three launch pads at two launch sites, including two launch pads at a private orbital launch site located in New Zealand and a third pad in Virginia. To learn more, visit

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