A four-week NASA Earth science radar imaging mission deployment to Central and South America got underway in early April when the agency's C-20A departed it's base in Palmdale, Calif., to collect data over targets in the Gulf Coast area of the southeastern United States.
The aircraft, a modified Gulfstream III, is carrying NASA's Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) instrument in a specialized pod under the belly of the aircraft. Developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., UAVSAR measures ground deformation over large areas to a precision of 0.04 to 0.2 inches (0.1 to 0.5 centimeters).
The mission schedule calls for the aircraft to make stops in 10 international and U.S. locations, including the Gulf Coast. Research during the deployment is covering a variety of topics, including the volcanoes, glaciers, forest structure, levees, and subsidence. It is also providing vegetation data sets for satellite algorithm development.
The volcanoes of Central and South America are of interest because of the hazard they pose to nearby population centers. A majority of the research will focus on gathering volcano deformation measurements, with many flight lines being repeats from previous deployments. Surface deformation often precedes other signs of renewed volcanic activity.
The aircraft and its support team flew from New Orleans April 10, flying five science lines over Guatemala and El Salvador prior to arriving at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama. Several data collection flights over Columbia are planned before the aircraft moves on to South America.
The mission is scheduled to end May 6 when the aircraft returns to its base at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center's Palmdale facility in Southern California.
Beth Hagenauer, Public Affairs
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center