NASA Airborne Science ER-2 aircraft is carrying the TWiLiTE and NAST-I sensors on engineering and science flights.
NASA's ER-2 Checks Out Atmospheric Science Sensors
(NASA / Jim Ross) › View Larger Image
NASA's high-altitude ER-2 is conducting engineering evaluations of and collecting science data with two specialized instruments during flights in early October. A total of five flights were scheduled between Oct. 3 and 12 from the aircraft's operating base in Palmdale, Calif.
The Tropospheric Wind Lidar Technology Experiment, or TWiLiTE, is an airborne remote sensing instrument designed to measure atmospheric wind profiles. Developed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., TWiLiTE was specifically built for demonstration on the ER-2. Accurate measurement of wind profiles is a missing parameter in global weather prediction models and developing TWiLiTE brings NASA closer to the goal of enabling a space-borne wind profiles measurement capability.
The second instrument is the NASA / National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Airborne Sounder Testbed – Interferometer, or NAST-I for short.
NAST-I is a high-resolution Michelson interferometer flown on NASA high-altitude aircraft that makes downward-viewing measurements of rising radiation, which helps determine thermodynamic, composition and radiative properties of the atmosphere, clouds and surface below. The sensor, operated by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., was recently refurbished. These flights aboard the ER-2 will enable further post-refurbishment performance optimization and ensure future science mission readiness.
The single-seat ER-2 operates at altitudes up to 70,000 feet, above 99 percent of the Earth's atmosphere. Depending on aircraft weight, the ER-2 can reach an initial cruise altitude of 65,000 feet within 20 minutes. Typical cruise speed is 410 knots. The aircraft can carry a payload of up to 2,600 pounds located in the equipment bay, nose area or wing pods.
The ER-2 is one of a fleet of modified aircraft that support NASA's Airborne Science Program under the agency's Science Mission Directorate. NASA's two ER-2 aircraft are based at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.
Beth Hagenauer, Public Affairs
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center