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NASA picks Astra Space for TROPICS mission launch service

NASA has selected California-based space company Astra Space to provide a launch service for the agency's TROPICS mission which consists of a constellation of six CubeSats and will increase the scientific community's understanding of storm processes.

CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites.

The launch service contract for the Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of SmallSats (TROPICS) mission is a firm fixed-price contract valued at $7.95 million, NASA said on Friday.

Astra Space will launch the CubeSats on the company's Rocket 3 from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands with three separate launches over a 120-day period.

The TROPICS mission is targeted for launch between January 8 and July 31, 2022, under a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launch license.

The CubeSats, each the size of a shoebox, will provide rapid-refresh microwave measurements that can be used to determine temperature, pressure, and humidity inside hurricanes as they form and evolve.

The TROPICS mission's high-revisit imaging and sounding observations are enabled by microwave technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory.

These observations are expected to improve scientists' understanding of processes driving high-impact storms.

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