Rocket Lab Chosen for NASA’s Climate Change Research Missions

By Sophia Francise

August 16, 2023

NASA announced that they had selected Rocket Lab USA Inc. to provide the launch service for the agency’s PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) mission.

The deal was awarded through NASA’s Venture-class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) program, a $300 million dollar five-year contracting vehicle for placing NASA’s science and technology payloads on U.S. commercial launchers.[1]

The contract is a double-launch deal where Rocket Lab will deliver the Agency’s climate change research-focused mission, PREFIRE, to low Earth orbit in 2024.

What is NASA’s PREFIRE Mission?

NASA’s PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) mission aims to close a gap in understanding how much of Earth’s heat is lost to space, especially from the Arctic and Antarctica. 

Analysis of PREFIRE’s measurements will inform climate and ice models, providing better projections of how a warming world will affect sea ice loss, ice sheet melt, and sea level rise. 

Improving climate models can provide more accurate projections on storm severity and frequency impacts, coastal erosion, and flooding. 

PREFIRE consists of two 6U CubeSats with a baseline mission length of 10 months is jointly developed by NASA and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California manages the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate and is providing the instruments.

Blue Canyon Technologies is building the CubeSats, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison will process the data collected by the instruments.

The two dedicated missions on Electron will deploy one small satellite each to a 525km circular orbit from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand from May 2024.

The PREFIRE mission has specific LTAN (Local Time of the Ascending Node) requirements and a need for the second satellite to be deployed to space shortly after the first, which is made possible by Electron’s unique ability to deploy dedicated small satellite missions on highly responsive timelines. 

The launches will be the 7th and 8th missions Rocket Lab has launched for NASA since 2018.


“Missions like these are core to the whole reason why Rocket Lab was founded in the first place – to open up access to space to improve life on Earth – and climate change is a hugely urgent cause for us all. It’s a privilege to be able to support this important mission and an honor to be a continued trusted launch provider for small satellite missions with big impact,” said Peter Beck, the founder, and CEO of Rocket Lab.


  1. NASA, NASA Announces Launch Service for Arctic Warming Experiment’, 14 August 2023,[]