Rocket Lab successfully launches first TROPICS storm-monitoring satellites for NASA

New Zealand's latest addition to NASA's plan to better track storms has been a resounding success.

Rocket Lab launched the first of its so-called TROPICS rockets today from Mahia Peninsula and it could be a lifesaving step in the battle against climate change.

The 'Rocket Like a Hurricane' launch lifted off on May 8 with two of the four CubeSats that comprise the TROPICS constellation (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats).

They are the first in NASA's new storm-mapping network that'll focus on North America.

Their mission? To provide near-hourly observations of the storm's precipitation, temperature and humidity to allow scientists to better understand what drives a storm's intensification.

"Once upon a time satellites were the size of school busses... we've built a much smaller rocket to get a lot more of these satellites into orbit," said Rocket Lab senior director of communications Morgan Bailey.

And they've done that. TROPICS director Stuart Anthony Cook Jr from NASA told Newshub that Rocket Lab's smaller rockets have enabled these satellites to get smaller than previously thought possible.

"Satellites about the size of a loaf of bread," he said.

He said despite their size they could save lives.

"They'll be able to better predict where storms will go - better predict storm tracking. And better understand how they'll intensify from a category 2 to a category 3."

As the climate continues to change NASA predicts we'll be seeing more of these satellites being used in the future. And there are hopes New Zealand will get its own satellite cluster in a couple of years.

While it might sound ironic to try and fight climate change by shooting rockets into space, Bailey said the emissions from a launch are comparable to a flight from Auckland to Sydney - "so it's worth the balance of getting it up there".

These scientists say when it comes to fighting climate change it's worth shooting for the moon.