NOAA's Laurel Watts and NASA Dryden's Dennis Pitts install NOAA's Ozone instrument on NASA's Global Hawk. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida) NASA's long-winged Global Hawk aircraft took to the skies shortly after midnight Friday morning April 23 on what could be a record-setting flight for the high-altitude, autonomously operated aircraft.
The blue-and-white unmanned craft departed NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California at 12:13 a.m., on what was planned to be a 28-hour mission. It was due to return shortly before sunrise on Saturday morning, April 24. The fourth of five planned flights in NASA's Global Hawk Pacific environmental science campaign, it would be the NASA Global Hawk's longest flight to date.
NASA Dryden's Global Hawk project manager Chris Naftel said Friday's flight will take the Global Hawk over Alaska and the Arctic Ocean as far north as 85 degrees north latitude – the farthest north that a Global Hawk has ever flown – while its sensors record atmospheric data.
"The goal is to take measurements over Alaska and the Arctic regions and demonstrate that Global Hawk can fly this type of mission," Naftel said. "A Global Hawk has never [previously] gone beyond 70 degrees north latitude."
The Global Hawk and its array of science instruments are being monitored and controlled by pilots and scientists from the Global Hawk Operations Center at NASA Dryden. Although its flight path is pre-programmed, human pilots can override and re-program the flight control computers at any time if needed.
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NASA's Global Hawk Completes Second GloPac Science Flight 04.14.10
Time Warner Cable SoCal News' Cody Urban and Keli Moore interview NASA atmospheric physicist Paul Newman, co-mission scientist for the Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) environmental science mission, beside a NASA Global Hawk aircraft at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. (NASA photo / Tom Tschida) NASA's Global Hawk environmental science aircraft took to the skies again April 13 on the second flight in the 2010 Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) atmospheric sampling mission. Lasting more than 24 hours and covering almost 9,000 miles, the flight left NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base shortly before 7 a.m. Tuesday and returned at 7:12 a.m. Wednesday morning April 14.
According to NASA Dryden's Global Hawk project manager Chris Naftel, the second data-collection flight in the series took the autonomously operated aircraft along a pre-programmed flight path over the Pacific Ocean to just south of Alaska, then southward to just east of Hawaii to about 15 degrees north latitude, and then eastward back to North America with a final northbound leg back to Edwards in Southern California. The mission reached a maximum altitude of 62,000 feet and included two planned data-collection descents from 59,000 to 43,000 feet as it explored the atmosphere at latitudes between 52 degrees north in the Arctic and 12 degrees north in the tropics.
GloPac researchers are measuring and sampling greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances, aerosols, and constituents of air quality in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. Because of the Global Hawk's long endurance, the GloPac measurements cover longer time periods and greater geographic distances than can be achieved with any other science aircraft.
The initial flight path of NASA's Global Hawk on its first data-collection flight in the Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) environmental science mission April 7, 2010 is marked in red overlaid on a Google Earth image of the Southern California coast. After departing Edwards Air Force Base, the remotely operated aircraft followed zig-zag pattern to avoid populated areas until reaching the Pacific Ocean. (NASA Image) During the long southbound leg over the Pacific, the Global Hawk flew under the tracks of two of NASA's "A-train" satellites – Aura and CALIPSO – while a Gulfstream V aircraft operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research flew the same track at a much lower altitude. All three air- or space-borne platforms collected data at the same time, with data from the science instruments aboard the aircraft used verify data obtained by the satellites.
Atmospheric physicist Paul Newman, co-mission scientist for GloPac, said one of the goals of the flight was to obtain air samples from fragments of the polar vortex as the dominant wintertime weather and wind pattern in the Arctic starts to break up during spring. Newman said mission scientists also hoped to obtain samples of a large dust plume coming across Pacific from Asia.
On the eastbound leg along the 15-degree latitude, scientists sampled very cold air at temperatures as low as minus 100 degrees Celsius in the stratosphere above the tropics.
The first science data-collection flight in the GloPac mission April 7 took NASA's Global Hawk over the Pacific Ocean and then up toward the Aleutians before it turned back. That 14-hour flight, covering more than 4,500 nautical miles at altitudes up to 61,000 feet, was the first of five scheduled for the GloPac mission to study atmospheric science over the Pacific and Arctic oceans.
NASA's Global Hawk Goes Aloft for Checkout Flight 04.02.10
One of NASA's Global Hawk high-altitude Earth science aircraft is shown shortly after takeoff from Edwards Air Force Base on a prior checkout flight. The aircraft is scheduled to begin its first long-duration environmental science mission, Global Hawk Pacific 2010 or GloPac, later this month. (NASA Photo / Tony Landis) NASA's Global Hawk unmanned science aircraft went aloft Friday, April 2, on a 6 ½-hour checkout flight over the Southern California high desert aimed at verifying the operation of the various science instruments that will be flown on the coming Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) environmental science mission.
The slender-winged autonomously operated aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base just before 7 a.m. PDT Friday, and landed at 1:18 p.m. to avoid potentially troublesome ground-level crosswinds that were expected Friday afternoon.
Chris Naftel, Global Hawk project manager at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, said the blue-and-white aircraft flew at various altitudes while project scientists checked out the operation of each of the 11 science instruments installed on the aircraft over the past two weeks for the GloPac mission. The flight plan called for the Global Hawk to fly for an extended period at 60,000 feet altitude to verify the instruments' ability to function properly in the extreme cold at higher altitudes.
A second long-duration instrument payload checkout flight is planned for no earlier than April 7 over the Pacific Ocean to verify that good data can be transmitted via satellite communications links from the aircraft back to the Global Hawk Operations Center at NASA Dryden.
NASA's Global Hawk Pacific, or GloPac, campaign is the first Earth science mission to be conducted on the aircraft. The Global Hawk's ability to autonomously fly long distances and remain aloft for extended periods at high altitudes brings a new capability to the science community for measuring and observing large areas of the Earth. The 10 specialized instruments installed in the aircraft will explore trace gases, aerosols, and dynamics of the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere and also validate sensors aboard NASA's Aura Earth-monitoring satellite.
For more on the GloPac campaign, visit:
GloPac Mission Page
Global Hawk Photos
Global Hawk Movies
NASA's Global Hawk Completes 11-hour GloPac Check Flight 02.11.10
The Global Hawk is controlled by a pilot and engineers from the flight operations section of the Global Hawk Operations Center at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. (NASA photo / Tony Landis) A NASA Global Hawk aircraft soared aloft from Edwards Air Force Base March 11 on a long-endurance checkout flight in preparation for the Global Hawk Pacific environmental science mission – GloPac for short – this spring.
The autonomously operated aircraft was aloft for almost 11 hours Thursday within the Edwards' flight test range over Southern California's high desert, lifting off the Edwards runway before 7:30 a.m. Pacific time and not returning until well after 6 p.m. The check flight was monitored and controlled remotely by engineers and pilots working two shifts from the Global Hawk Operations Center at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards.
Thursday's flight was primarily oriented toward a functional checkout of aircraft systems. As a precaution, the flight was shortened by a couple of hours after an issue was identified with the aircraft navigation system, which has since been resolved. Thursday's flight was the eighth test flight of the unmanned aircraft since NASA began flight operations.
GloPac will consist of four or five science flights in late March and April that will take NASA's Global Hawk over the Pacific Ocean and Arctic regions. The plane will carry 10 science instruments that will sample the chemical composition of stratospheric and tropospheric air and observe cloud and particle distributions in the troposphere.
The next milestone for the GloPac mission will be the first flight with all the instruments installed on the aircraft. To be flown within the Edwards test range, the next flight's objective is to verify operation of the instruments at very high altitudes and demonstrate the functionality of the payload data telemetry system.
Several of the research scientists who will be operating science instruments on the Global Hawk during the GloPac campaign have already arrived at NASA Dryden, and the remainder were scheduled to be on site by the week of March 15 to install and check out their instruments.