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Airborne Science Program

ER-2 High-Altitude Research Platform

Lockheed ER-2 #809 high altitude research aircraft in flight

NASA is operating two ER-2 aircraft as Airborne Science satellite simulator aircraft. These aircraft, based at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., collect information about our surroundings, including Earth resources, celestial observations, atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, and oceanic processes. The ER-2 is a versatile aircraft well suited to perform multiple mission tasks. An F-118-GE-101 engine powers the ER-2 up to an altitude of 70,000 feet. The aircraft can carry a maximum payload of 2,600 pounds distributed in the equipment bay, nose area and wing pods. It is capable of missions of up to eight hours and ranges of 3,000 nautical miles. The aircraft, one acquired in 1981 and the second in 1989, are 63 feet long with a 104 foot 8 inch wingspan.

Current Mission

ER-2 (tail number 809) will be participating in the upcoming Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes (TCSP) mission sponsored by the Science Mission Directorate of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The field experiment is tentatively scheduled for July 1-28, 2005 and is based out of San Jose, Costa Rica.

TCSP will be focusing on the study of the dynamics and thermodynamics of precipitating cloud systems, including tropical cyclones using NASA-funded aircraft and surface remote sensing instrumentation. Targeted data sets will be collected using the ER-2 in synergy with remote sensing observations provided by NASA and other agencies. These observations will be used to answer key questions pertaining to the origins and lifecycle of weather disturbances in the tropics. Analyses of data sets will address a wide variety of atmospheric space and time scales, ranging from the convective through the synoptic. Investigations will also be conducted to improve upon numerical modeling studies of tropical cyclogenesis, including wave-to-depression transition in the western Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Pacific Oceans.

ER-2 (tail number 806) is currently undergoing routine maintenance.

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DC-8 Flying Laboratory

DC-8 Airborne Laboratory in flight

NASA is using a McDonnell Douglas DC-8 as a flying science laboratory. This platform aircraft, based at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., collects data for many experiments in support of projects serving the world's scientific community. Data gathered by the DC-8 at flight altitude and by remote sensing have been used for scientific studies in archaeology, ecology, geography, hydrology, meteorology, oceanography, volcanology, atmospheric chemistry, soil science and biology. The DC-8 also flies sensor development and satellite sensor verification missions. The four-engine former jetliner is capable of flying extended-duration missions for as long as 12 hours over a range of 5,400 nautical miles at cruise altitudes of up to 41,000 feet. The aircraft is 157 feet long with a 148-foot wingspan. The DC-8 can carry 30,000 pounds of scientific instruments and equipment.

Current Mission

DC-8 (tail number 817) has no missions currently scheduled.

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