NASA's Global Hawk unmanned aircraft project celebrated a flight milestone on Sept. 17, 2013. The two Global Hawks reached a combined 100 NASA flights while deployed to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., to study hurricane formation and intensification in the Atlantic Ocean region.
NASA's Global Hawk 871 departed Sept. 17 from Wallops marking the 25th flight for this aircraft, the first of seven built by Northrop Grumman under the original Global Hawk Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator development program sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This aircraft first flew under NASA operation in May 2010.
The same day, NASA Global Hawk 872 returned to Wallops after making its 75th flight. This aircraft was the sixth built as a technology demonstrator and was first flown by NASA in October 2009.
The 100 flights are a combination of early evaluation flights, science instrument checkout flights, science missions and several technology development flights flown for the Northrop Grumman Corp. under a Space Act Agreement with NASA.
The two aircraft are currently supporting NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission, which is studying tropical storms and the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensification. The aircraft are equipped with instruments to survey the overall environment of the storms and peer into the inner core of hurricanes to study their structure and processes. Global Hawks are well suited for hurricane investigations because they can fly for as long as 28 hours and over-fly hurricanes at altitudes greater than 60,000 feet. The aircraft have a range of 11,000 nautical miles.
The Global Hawks were transferred to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., from the U.S. Air Force in 2007. In addition to a ground operations center at Dryden, a newer second operations center was developed at Wallops and is in use for the HS3 mission. The project also developed a portable operations center, giving the aircraft the additional capability of deploying to other U.S. and foreign locations.
For more information about the HS3 mission, visit: www.nasa.gov/HS3.
Rob Gutro, public affairs, Goddard Space Flight Center
Beth Hagenauer, public affairs, Dryden Flight Research Center