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Watch Rocket Lab launch shoebox-sized NASA climate satellite tonight

Rocket Lab will launch the second of two cubesats for NASA’s PREFIRE climate change mission tonight (May 31), and you can watch the action live.

An Electron rocket topped with the tiny satellite is scheduled to lift off from Rocket Lab‘s New Zealand site tonight at 11:00 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT and 3:00 p.m. New Zealand time on June 1).

Rocket Lab will livestream the liftoff, beginning about 30 minutes before launch. Space.com will carry the feed if, as expected, Rocket Lab makes it available.

Related: NASA’s twin spacecraft will go to the ends of the Earth to combat climate change

PREFIRE is short for “Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-Infrared Experiment.” As that name suggests, the mission will study heat loss from Earth’s polar regions, gathering data that should help scientists better understand our warming world.

“A lot of the heat radiated from the Arctic and Antarctica is emitted as far-infrared radiation, but there is currently no detailed measurement of this type of energy,” Rocket Lab wrote in a mission description.

“The water vapor content of the atmosphere, along with the presence, structure and composition of clouds, influences the amount of far-infrared radiation that escapes into space from Earth’s poles,” the company added. “Data collected from PREFIRE will give researchers information on where and when far-infrared energy radiates from the Arctic and Antarctic environments into space.”

Artist’s illustration of NASA’s two PREFIRE cubesats in orbit around Earth. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PREFIRE will collect this data using two shoebox-sized cubesats. Rocket Lab launched the first of the satellites on May 25, sending it to a 326-mile-high (525-kilometer-high) circular orbit above Earth.

This second PREFIRE craft will head to a slightly different orbit with the same altitude. If all goes according to plan, the duo’s paths will cross every few hours near the planet’s poles.

Rocket Lab calls tonight’s mission, which will be its 49th orbital launch to date, “PREFIRE and Ice.” The company named the May 25 liftoff “Ready, Aim, PREFIRE.”

Rocket Lab is working to make the first stage of the 59-foot-tall (18-meter-tall) Electron reusable; the company has recovered boosters from the sea on multiple previous launches, but no such activity occurred on “Ready, Aim, PREFIRE,” and Rocket Lab has not mentioned a recovery component for “PREFIRE and Ice.”

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