NASA has launched a new mission aimed at improving hurricane forecasting just in time for the upcoming 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on June 1. The mission, called TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats), consists of a constellation of small satellites known as CubeSats. The first two CubeSats were successfully launched from Māhia, New Zealand, aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. The remaining two CubeSats, nicknamed “Coming to a Storm Near You,” are scheduled for launch from the same location in approximately two weeks. These four satellites, each weighing 12 pounds and roughly the size of a loaf of bread, will observe tropical cyclones from low-Earth orbit. Together, they will provide more frequent observations compared to existing weather-monitoring satellites.

The goal of the mission is to enable scientists and researchers to accurately predict storm strength and give people enough time to evacuate and make necessary plans. The data collected by the CubeSats will include precipitation, temperature, and humidity measurements of tropical storms, allowing for a better understanding of storm intensity and rapid changes. The TROPICS mission will complement current weather satellites and provide valuable insights into the inner structure and dynamics of storms. With hurricanes and tropical storms having devastating effects on lives and livelihoods, the need for improved climate and weather data from space is crucial. The collected data will be shared with organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, and the National Hurricane Center.