NASA's high-altitude ER-2 aircraft No. 806 lifts off the runway at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. The aircraft is one of two flown by NASA for airborne science research, electronic sensor research and development, satellite calibration and satellite data validation. (NASA / Tony Landis) › View Larger Image
With landing gear down, full flaps and speed brakes deployed, NASA's high-altitude ER-2 No. 806 descends on final approach to the runway at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. (NASA / Tony Landis)
› View Larger Image NASA's high-altitude ER-2 No. 806 completed a functional check flight Dec. 12 that validated the aircraft's systems. The ER-2 recently concluded five months of maintenance work that included a 600-hour airframe inspection and 800-hour engine inspection.
A new addition to the aircraft is the NASA Airborne Science Data and Telemetry System that records navigation data and controls uplink and downlink capabilities through Iridium satellites.
An upgraded Experiment Interface Panel has a new Ethernet capability that enables more data transmission and command and control options for science payloads.
The aircraft will prepare for January 2013 flights of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's ER-2 X-band Radar, or EXRAD, mission. This study will be followed in February with Earth remote sensing research using the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer, or AVIRIS.
AVIRIS and the MODIS/ASTER Airborne Simulator (MASTER) sensors, the latter co-developed by JPL and NASA's Ames Research Center, will be installed in 806 to study Earth's ecosystems during flights planned for mid-March through mid-April. This is a preparatory airborne study supporting the development of the NASA decadal survey Hyper-spectral Infrared Imager (HyspIRI) satellite mission.
The ER-2, with the capability of flying to 70,000 feet, will also carry the Large Area Collectors used to collect cosmic dust samples that provide valuable information about the origin and history of the solar system. These flights are planned for late April.