Rocket Lab USA launches first PREFIRE satellite for NASA’s climate mission


Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB), a prominent global provider of launch services and space systems, has successfully launched the first of two dedicated missions for NASA’s PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) project, which focuses on climate change research. The mission, titled ‘Ready, Aim, PREFIRE,’ took off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand, at 7:41 pm NZST on May 25th, 2024, marking a significant milestone in climate observation technology.

Precision in Earth’s Climate Monitoring

The successful deployment of the PREFIRE satellite into a 525km circular Low Earth Orbit is a critical step forward in gathering essential climate data. The launch is part of a dual-satellite mission requiring precise orbital insertion to ensure both satellites operate along similar trajectories but on different paths. This configuration allows them to overlap every few hours near the Arctic and Antarctica, capturing crucial heat loss measurements in far-infrared wavelengths—data previously unmeasured systematically.

Rocket Lab launches the first satellite for NASA's PREFIRE climate mission from New Zealand, marking a key step in enhancing global climate models.

Rocket Lab launches the first satellite for NASA’s PREFIRE climate mission from New Zealand, marking a key step in enhancing global climate models.

Rocket Lab’s CEO, Peter Beck, emphasized the significance of the mission: “Missions like PREFIRE demonstrate the unique benefit of Electron – dedicated launch for small satellites to precise orbits on precise schedules. It’s a privilege to support them on Electron.”

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Enhancing Global Climate Models

The PREFIRE satellites are equipped with thermopile sensors, similar to those used in household thermostats, to measure terrestrial heat loss. This pioneering data collection will significantly enhance the accuracy of climate and ice models, aiding in better predictions of sea-level changes and weather patterns globally. The success of these missions is pivotal for understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

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Rocket Lab’s Continued Excellence in Space Missions

The launch marks Rocket Lab’s 48th Electron mission and the sixth launch of 2024, showcasing their capability to perform back-to-back launches with precision—a feature previously demonstrated in NASA’s TROPICS mission. The forthcoming launch, titled ‘PREFIRE and Ice,’ is scheduled to deploy the second satellite, with its date to be confirmed early next week.

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