Text Size
January 15, 2009
NASA Debuts Global Hawk Autonomous Aircraft for Earth Science

EDWARDS, Calif. – NASA and Northrop Grumman Corporation have unveiled the first Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system to be used for environmental science research, heralding a new application for the world's first fully autonomous high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft. The debut took place Thursday at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.

NASA and Northrop Grumman are returning NASA's two Global Hawk aircraft to flight this year under a Space Act Agreement signed in May 2008. NASA plans to use the aircraft for missions to support its Science Mission Directorate and the Earth science community that require high-altitude, long-distance airborne capability.

"Today marks the debut of NASA's newest airborne science capability," said Kevin L. Petersen, director of Dryden. "These Global Hawks represent the first non-military use of this remarkable robotic aircraft system. NASA's partnership with Northrop Grumman has made this possible."

The U.S. Air Force transferred the Global Hawks to NASA in December 2007. They are among the first seven built in the original Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program, which the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency sponsored. Northrop Grumman will share in the use of the aircraft to conduct its own flight demonstrations for expanded markets, missions and airborne capabilities, including integration of autonomous aircraft systems into the national airspace.

Global Hawk can fly at altitudes up to 65,000 feet for more than 31 hours at a time. To date, Global Hawks have flown more than 28,000 hours.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, also is partnering with NASA to develop this new airborne research tool. NOAA is participating in the project management and piloting of the NASA Global Hawks and the development of scientific instruments and future Earth science research campaigns.

"These Global Hawks will provide superb new measurement possibilities for our climate science and applications programs," said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division in Washington. "This collaboration is a model for NASA's wide-ranging Earth-observation activities to advance our understanding of Earth as an integrated system, which are critical to developing responses to environmental change here and around the world."

NASA's initial use of the aircraft to support Earth science will be the Global Hawk Pacific 2009 program. This campaign will consist of six long-duration missions over the Pacific and Arctic regions in the late spring and early summer of 2009. Twelve scientific instruments integrated into one of the NASA Global Hawk aircraft will collect atmospheric data while flying high through Earth's atmosphere in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.

Global Hawk has many potential applications for the advancement of science, improvement of hurricane monitoring techniques, development of disaster support capabilities, and development of advanced autonomous aircraft system technologies. For example, Global Hawks were used to help monitor wildfires in Southern California in 2007 and 2008.

The Dryden Flight Research Center, located on Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, is NASA's primary installation for atmospheric flight research. It has supported NASA's technology development efforts in aeronautics, environmental science, space exploration and space operations for more than 60 years.

- 0 -

NOTE TO EDITORS: Still photos and video footage are available from the Dryden Public Affairs Office to support this release. High-resolution photos are available on the NASA Dryden web site at:

For video dubs, please call 661-276-3449.

Additional information about NASA Dryden's use of the Global Hawk aircraft is on-line at:

For more information about NASA Dryden Flight Research Center and its research projects, visit:


- end -

text-only version of this release

To receive status reports and news releases issued from the Dryden Newsroom electronically, send a blank e-mail message to dfrc-subscribe@newsletters.nasa.gov. To unsubscribe, send a blank e-mail message to dfrc-unsubscribe@newsletters.nasa.gov. The system will confirm your request via e-mail.


Dryden Flight Research Center
P.O. Box 273
Edwards, California 93523
Phone 661-276-3449
FAX 661-276-3566

Beth Hagenauer
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

Stephen Cole
Headquarters, Washington

NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center news releases and other information are available automatically by sending an e-mail message with the subject line subscribe to afrc-request@newsletters.nasa.gov

To unsubscribe from the list, send an e-mail message with the subject line unsubscribe to afrc-request@newsletters.nasa.gov

Image Token: 
Image Token: 
Page Last Updated: July 10th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator