Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA's Global Hawk completes first science flight

Date:
April 9, 2010
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
NASA has successfully completed the first science flight of the Global Hawk unpiloted aircraft system over the Pacific Ocean. The flight was the first of five scheduled for this month's Global Hawk Pacific, or GloPac, mission to study atmospheric science over the Pacific and Arctic oceans.

The Global Hawk can fly autonomously to altitudes above 60,000 feet -- roughly twice as high as a commercial airliner -- and as far as 11,000 nautical miles. Operators pre-program a flight path, and then the plane flies itself for as long as 30 hours.
Credit: NASA/Dryden/Carla Thomas

NASA has successfully completed the first science flight of the Global Hawk unpiloted aircraft system over the Pacific Ocean. The flight was the first of five scheduled for this month's Global Hawk Pacific, or GloPac, mission to study atmospheric science over the Pacific and Arctic oceans.

The Global Hawk is a robotic plane that can fly autonomously to altitudes above 18,288 meters (60,000 feet) -- roughly twice as high as a commercial airliner -- and as far as 20,372 kilometers (11,000 nautical miles), which is half the circumference of Earth. Operators pre-program a flight path, then the plane flies itself for as long as 30 hours, staying in contact through satellite and line-of-site communications links to a ground control station at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California's Mojave Desert.

"The Global Hawk is a revolutionary aircraft for science because of its enormous range and endurance," said Paul Newman, co-mission scientist for GloPac and an atmospheric scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "No other science platform provides the range and time to sample rapidly evolving atmospheric phenomena. This mission is our first opportunity to demonstrate the unique capabilities of this plane, while gathering atmospheric data in a region that is poorly sampled."

GloPac researchers plan to directly measure and sample greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances, aerosols and constituents of air quality in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. GloPac's measurements will cover longer time periods and greater geographic distances than any other science aircraft.

During Wednesday's flight, the plane flew approximately 8,334 kilometers (4,500 nautical miles) along a flight path that took it to 150.3 degrees West longitude, and 54.6 degrees North latitude, just south of Alaska's Kodiak Island. The flight lasted just over 14 hours and flew up to 18,562 meters (60,900 feet). The mission is a joint project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

The plane carries 11 instruments to sample the chemical composition of the troposphere and stratosphere, including two from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.. The instruments profile the dynamics and meteorology of both layers and observe the distribution of clouds and aerosol particles. Project scientists expect to take observations from the equator north to the Arctic Circle and west of Hawaii.

Although the plane is designed to fly on its own, pilots can change its course or altitude based on interesting atmospheric phenomena ahead. Researchers have the ability via communications links to control their instruments from the ground.

"The Global Hawk is a fantastic platform because it gives us expanded access to the atmosphere beyond what we have with piloted aircraft," said David Fahey, co-mission scientist and a research physicist at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. "We can go to regions we couldn't reach or go to previously explored regions and study them for extended periods that are impossible with conventional planes."

The timing of GloPac flights should allow scientists to observe the breakup of the polar vortex. The vortex is a large-scale cyclone in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere that dominates winter weather patterns around the Arctic and is particularly important for understanding ozone depletion in the Northern Hemisphere.

Scientists also expect to gather high-altitude data between 13,716 and 19,812 meters (45,000 and 65,000 feet), where many greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances are destroyed. They will measure dust, smoke and pollution that cross the Pacific from Asia and Siberia and affect U.S. air quality.

Global Hawk will make several flights under NASA's Aura satellite and other "A-train" Earth-observing satellites, "allowing us to calibrate and confirm what we see from space," Newman added. GloPac is specifically being conducted in conjunction with NASA's Aura Validation Experiment.

GloPac includes more than 130 researchers and technicians from Goddard, Dryden Flight Research Center, JPL, and Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. Also involved are NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory; the University of California, Santa Cruz; Droplet Measurement Technologies of Boulder, Colo.; and the University of Denver.

NASA Dryden and the Northrop Grumman Corp. of Rancho Bernardo, Calif., signed a Space Act Agreement to re-fit and maintain three Global Hawks transferred from the U.S. Air Force for use in high-altitude, long-duration Earth science missions.

For more on GloPac, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/global-hawk.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA's Global Hawk completes first science flight." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100408150742.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2010, April 9). NASA's Global Hawk completes first science flight. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100408150742.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA's Global Hawk completes first science flight." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100408150742.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Falls for 4x4s at Beijing Auto Show

China Falls for 4x4s at Beijing Auto Show

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — The urban 4x4 is the latest must-have for Chinese drivers, whose conversion to the cult of the SUV is the talking point of this year's Beijing auto show. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hagel Gets Preview of New High-Tech Projects

Hagel Gets Preview of New High-Tech Projects

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is given hands-on demonstrations Tuesday of some of the newest research from DARPA _ the military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lytro Introduces 'Illum,' A Professional Light-Field Camera

Lytro Introduces 'Illum,' A Professional Light-Field Camera

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — The light-field photography engineers at Lytro unveiled their next innovation: a professional DSLR-like camera called "Illum." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins