This graphic displays the planned flight track of NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory during its last data-collection flight in the GRIP hurricane and tropical storm research study. (NASA image) › View Larger Image
NASA's Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes, or GRIP, mission, a six-week study of the formation and strengthening of tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic Ocean, is nearing its conclusion with flights this week by its DC-8 flying laboratory and Global Hawk unmanned aircraft over Tropical Storm Matthew.
The remotely operated Global Hawk touched down at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California at 10:15 Friday morning, Sept. 24, after a more than 25-hour mission that included several data-collection passes over the developing storm system in the Gulf of Mexico.
The four-engine DC-8 and its team of scientists concluded their data-collection flights in the GRIP research campaign on Wednesday, Sept. 22, with a 7.7-hour survey flight over the same general area south of Hispaniola and north of Venezuela. The flight included aerosol sampling and a coordinated data-validation under the path of NASA's CALIPSO and Cloudsat weather monitoring satellites.
This large gray fairing on the belly of NASA's Global Hawk covers the High-Altitude Imaging Wind and Rain Profiler, or HIWRAP, a specialized radar instrument that measures hurricane wind structure during NASA’s GRIP mission. (NASA / Tony Landis)
The converted jetliner and its team of scientists, flight crew and support personnel are scheduled to return to its home base at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 25, completing its contribution to the GRIP field campaign.
The DC-8 had been deployed to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for the duration of the GRIP mission, although some of its flights were staged out of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. All of the Global Hawk flights in the GRIP mission were monitored and controlled from the Global Hawk operations center at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards.
A high-altitude WB-57 from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston also flew several missions for the GRIP campaign. In addition, aircraft from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force participated in the research study.
NASA's trio of environmental science aircraft flew well over 200 hours of data-collection flight time during the GRIP mission, with the DC-8 amassing more than 140 flight hours during 25 flights since the campaign began in early August. The long-endurance, high-altitude Global Hawk flew several missions of more than 24 hours duration during the campaign. Mission managers are reviewing whether to have the Global Hawk fly one more mission before the airborne data-collection portion of the GRIP research study concludes, with a decision not expected until next week at the earliest.
The campaign included coordinated flights by the DC-8, Global Hawk and WB-57 over several hurricanes and tropical storms, including major hurricanes Earl and Karl.
The 2010 Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) field experiment is managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., with participation from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Goddard, Dryden and Johnson field centers.