Rocket Lab successfully launches two NASA hurricane monitoring cubesats

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket today successfully placed NASA’s two Tropics hurricane monitoring cubesats into orbit, lifting off from New Zealand ((May 8th New Zealand time).

This is the first of two Rocket Lab launches to get the entire four-satellite Tropics constellation into orbit, with the second schedule for two weeks from now.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

29 SpaceX
16 China
6 Russia
4 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 33 to 16 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 33 to 28.

Hurricane threatens SLS on launchpad

A storm, now rated subtropical, that is expected to cross the east coast of Florida on November 10th with the possibility that it could strengthen into a hurricane now threatens NASA’s SLS rocket that is on its Florida launchpad preparing for its first test flight on November 14, 2022.

A map of the storm’s presently predicted track can be seen here.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is currently in a HURCON (Hurricane Condition) IV status, which includes implementing checklists and preparations for the storm as the agency continues to prioritize its employees in the Kennedy area. Based on current forecast data, managers have determined the Space Launch System rocket and Orion will remain at Launch Pad 39B. Teams at Kennedy will continue to monitor the weather, make sure all personnel are safe, and will evaluate the status of the Monday, Nov. 14, launch attempt for the Artemis I mission as we proceed and receive updated predictions about the weather.

Depending on the storm’s track in the next 24 hours, as well as its strength, NASA managers have the option of returning the rocket to the assembly building to protect it. If they do so, however, it is certain the November 14th launch date will be scrubbed. As they have a window of a number of additional dates [pdf] through November 27th, I suspect they will then aim for one of those dates.