NASA and Rocket Lab to Launch Tiny Satellites to Understand Climate Change at the Poles
NASA has contracted Rocket Lab to launch two small satellites from its rocket lab to contribute to our understanding of the effects of climate change on Earth’s poles. The PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in Far-Infrared Experiment) mission aims to collect data on far-infrared energy emissions on the poles and how they change throughout the day and year. This energy spectrum has been poorly understood, despite accounting for about 60% of Arctic emissions.
Both satellites, each about the size of a bread loaf, will be equipped with miniaturized thermal infrared spectrometers. By comparing the collected data with conditions such as cloud cover and sea ice levels, scientists hope to improve climate models for the future. The Rocket Lab plans to launch the two satellites using its Electron rocket in May 2024 and place them in near-polar orbits for at least 10 months of data storage.
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket provides a unique capability to deploy small satellite missions with highly responsive timeframes, enabling the company to meet the specific requirements of the PREFIRE mission. The launches will take place from Rocket Lab’s launch site in New Zealand.
This contract is part of NASA’s Venture Class Acquisition of Dedicated and RideShare (VADER) program, which aims to place NASA payloads on commercial rockets. Rocket Lab has previously launched six missions for NASA since 2018, including the successful placement of four storm-watching satellites earlier this year.