Rocket Lab to Launch NASA’s Cyclone-Tracking Satellite Constellation from New Zealand
To ensure the constellation is in orbit for the 2023 storm season, Rocket Lab will launch NASA’s four TROPICS satellites from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand across two dedicated Electron missions in May
Long Beach, California. April 10, 2023 – Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today announced it will launch NASA’s TROPICS constellation across two dedicated Electron missions lifting off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand next month.
The TROPICS constellation (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of Small Sats) will monitor the formation and evolution of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes, and will provide rapidly updating observations of storm intensity. This data will help scientists better understand the processes that effect these high-impact storms, ultimately leading to improved modelling and prediction. The two missions are expected to launch within approximately two weeks of each other in May 2023. The first launch, named ‘Rocket Like a Hurricane,’ is expected to launch as soon as May 1 NZST (30 April EDT) and the second mission, named ‘Coming to a Storm Near You,’ is expected to follow around May 16 NZST (May 15 EDT).
The constellation, which is part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program, consists of four CubeSats that require launch to a specific orbit at an altitude of 550 kilometers and inclination of about 30 degrees. All four satellites need to be deployed into their operational orbit within a 60-day period, making Electron the ideal launch vehicle as it enables dedicated launch to unique orbits on highly responsive timelines. The two missions were initially scheduled to lift-off from Launch Complex 2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport within NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia but will now take place at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand to support a Q2 launch window that will see the satellites reach orbit in time for the North American 2023 hurricane season.
“The need for improved climate and weather data from space is acute and growing. Hurricanes and tropical storms have a devastating effect on lives and livelihoods, so we’re immensely proud to be entrusted by NASA to launch the TROPICS missions which will enable scientists and researchers to accurately predict storm strength and give people time to evacuate and make plans,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “With the 2023 hurricane season fast approaching, time is of the essence for these missions. Because we operate three launch pads across two countries, we can constantly assess the launch manifest and adapt launch schedules and locations based on customer and mission requirements.”
“The ability to advance our understanding of tropical cyclones from space has been limited by the ability to take frequent measurements, particularly from microwave instruments that see into the storms,” says Will McCarty, Program Scientist for the TROPICS Mission. “Historically, satellites have been too large and expensive to provide observations at a time-frequency that is consistent with the timescales at which tropical cyclones can evolve. The CubeSat era has allowed for smaller, less expensive satellites. With modern small satellite design, we designed a constellation that optimizes the scientific utility of the mission in a way that we can launch in a cost-effective manner. These factors enable TROPICS to provide a new understanding of tropical cyclones by decreasing the time by which a given storm is revisited by the satellites.”
Rocket Lab was selected to launch the TROPICS missions as part of NASA’s Venture-class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract.
Forward Looking Statements.
This press release may contain certain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. All statements, other than statements of historical facts, contained in this release, including statements regarding our expectations of financial results for first quarter 2023, strategy, future operations, future financial position, projected costs, prospects, plans and objectives of management, are forward-looking statements. Words such as, but not limited to, “anticipate,” “aim,” “believe,” “contemplate,” “continue,” “could,” “design,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “might,” “plan,” “possible,” “potential,” “predict,” “project,” “seek,” “should,” “suggest,” “strategy,” “target,” “will,” “would,” and similar expressions or phrases, or the negative of those expressions or phrases, are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. These forward-looking statements are based on Rocket Lab’s current expectations and beliefs concerning future developments and their potential effects. These forward-looking statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties (many of which are beyond Rocket Lab’s control), or other assumptions that may cause actual results or performance to be materially different from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Many factors could cause actual future events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements in this release, including risks related to the global COVID-19 pandemic; risks related to government restrictions and lock-downs in New Zealand and other countries in which we operate that could delay or suspend our operations; delays and disruptions in expansion efforts; our dependence on a limited number of customers; the harsh and unpredictable environment of space in which our products operate which could adversely affect our launch vehicle and spacecraft; increased congestion from the proliferation of low Earth orbit constellations which could materially increase the risk of potential collision with space debris or another spacecraft and limit or impair our launch flexibility and/or access to our own orbital slots; increased competition in our industry due in part to rapid technological development and decreasing costs; technological change in our industry which we may not be able to keep up with or which may render our services uncompetitive; average selling price trends; failure of our launch vehicles, spacecraft and components to operate as intended either due to our error in design in production or through no fault of our own; launch schedule disruptions; supply chain disruptions, product delays or failures; design and engineering flaws; launch failures; natural disasters and epidemics or pandemics; changes in governmental regulations including with respect to trade and export restrictions, or in the status of our regulatory approvals or applications; or other events that force us to cancel or reschedule launches, including customer contractual rescheduling and termination rights; risks that acquisitions may not be completed on the anticipated time frame or at all or do not achieve the anticipated benefits and results; and the other risks detailed from time to time in Rocket Lab’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), including under the heading “Risk Factors” in Rocket Lab’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, which was filed with the SEC on March 24, 2022, and elsewhere (including that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may also exacerbate the risks discussed therein). There can be no assurance that the future developments affecting Rocket Lab will be those that we have anticipated. Except as required by law, Rocket Lab is not undertaking any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.