A constellation of nanosats could improve our understanding of the world’s most dangerous storms.
June 27, 2021

There have been an unprecedented number of newsworthy hurricanes in recent years—from Hurricane Maria, which dealt at least $43 billion in damage to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, to last year’s Iota, the strongest hurricane ever to hit Nicaragua, which displaced more than 62,000 people and devastated the country’s harvest. Twelve made landfall in the United States in 2020, breaking the previous record of 9 in a single year. And hurricanes, while the most famous, are actually the least frequent of a broader category of storms called tropical cyclones, which are becoming more violent as the climate warms. So it’s more critical than ever that meteorologists accurately forecast them and send out warnings before extreme events catch people off guard.

That’s the thinking behind Tropics, a first-of-its-kind nanosatellite project expected to launch its first qualification unit on Monday from Cape Canaveral aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. The constellation will ultimately consist of 7 small satellites that will monitor Earth’s tropical zone, which spans about 40 degrees of latitude to the north and south of the equator.