Rocket Lab to Launch Climate Change Research Mission Focused on Arctic Ice Caps for NASA
Across two Electron launches in 2024, Rocket Lab will deploy NASA’s PREFIRE mission to study naturally occurring radiation at the Arctic to better understand its impact on melting glaciers, sea ice, clouds and water, and climate modelling and forecasting.
Long Beach, California. August 14, 2023. – Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a global leader in launch services and space systems, today announced it has signed a double-launch deal with NASA to deliver the Agency’s climate change research-focused mission, PREFIRE, to low Earth orbit in 2024.
The two dedicated missions on Electron will deploy one small satellite each to a 525km circular orbit from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand from May 2024. The PREFIRE mission has specific LTAN (Local Time of the Ascending Node) requirements and a need for the second satellite to be deployed to space shortly after the first, which is made possible by Electron’s unique ability to deploy dedicated small satellite missions on highly responsive timelines. The launches will be the 7th and 8th missions Rocket Lab has launched for NASA since 2018.
NASA's PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) mission will help close a gap in understanding of how much of Earth’s heat is lost to space, especially from the Arctic and Antarctica. Analysis of PREFIRE’s measurements will inform climate and ice models, providing better projections of how a warming world will affect sea ice loss, ice sheet melt, and sea level rise. Improving climate models can ultimately help to provide more accurate projections on the impacts of storm severity and frequency, as well as coastal erosion and flooding. PREFIRE consists of two, 6U CubeSats with a baseline mission length of 10 months.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck, said: “Missions like these are core to the whole reason why Rocket Lab was founded in the first place - to open up access to space to improve life on Earth – and climate change is a hugely urgent cause for us all. It’s a privilege to be able to support this important mission and an honor to be a continued trusted launch provider for small satellite missions with big impact.”
The PREFIRE mission was awarded to Rocket Lab through NASA’s Venture-class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) program, a $300 million dollar five-year contracting vehicle for placing NASA’s science and technology payloads on U.S. commercial launchers.
PREFIRE joins a long list of NASA missions awarded to Rocket Lab, including the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon on Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle and Lunar Photon satellite bus, the back-to-back launches in May 2023 of the TROPICS satellites for NASA’s hurricane monitoring mission, and the NASA Starling mission launched last month on Rocket Lab’s most recent Electron recovery launch.
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