CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A Rocket Lab Electron rocket launched the second of a pair of NASA cubesats designed to monitor infrared emissions at the Earth’s poles.

The Electron lifted off from the company’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand at 11:15 p.m. Eastern June 4. It deployed the second Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment (PREFIRE) cubesat about an hour later.

The launch, previously attempted May 31 but scrubbed by liquid oxygen temperatures that were out of limits, took place a week and a half after another Electron launched the first PREFIRE satellite. Both spacecraft are in similar sun-synchronous orbits but in different planes.

That approach, which required dedicated launches of each 6U cubesat, in intended to enable scientists to see changes in emissions in polar regions over the course of a day.

“Having one cubesat would be able to map out what the emission looks like in the polar regions,” said Tristan L’Ecuyer, principal investigator for PREFIRE at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, at a pre-launch briefing. “But by having a second cubesat that flies over about six hours later, we will be able to understand how changes, like melting of the ice sheet or a cloud formation or an increase in the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, affect the emissions.”

Project officials said at that May 15 pre-launch briefing that they planned to take about a month to check out each spacecraft and its thermal infrared spectrometer instrument after launch. L’Ecuyer said he expected to have initial science results from the mission in about two months. PREFIRE has a planned mission lifetime of 10 months.

The launch was the seventh this year for Electron. “I’m proud of the team for delivering back-to-back mission success for NASA on Electron once again,” Peter Beck, chief executive of the company, said in a statement. “Quickly deploying both satellites to orbit within 11 days of each other demonstrates our team’s skill and experience, allowing NASA to maximize PREFIRE’s time in space collecting important climate change data.”

Rocket Lab said in that statement that it would announce details in the near future about its next launch, which will be the 50th for Electron. The likely customer for that mission is Kinéis, a French company developing an Internet of Things constellation. It has stated it will launch its first set of five satellites on an Electron between June 10 and July 9.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...