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NASA - Airborne Science Program - DC-8
December 17, 2007

NASA 817 DC-8

Aircraft Specifications DC-8 3 View Diagram
NASA DC-8 Airborne Laboratory Program
NASA DC-8 Aircraft Facility
Earth Science Research

Aircraft Specifications


Crew:   Two Pilots, Flight Engineer, Navigator
Length:   157 feet
Wingspan:   148 feet
Engine:   Four CFM56-2-C1 High Bypass Turbofan Jet
Base:   Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility, Palmdale, CA


Altitude:   1,000 to 41,000 ft
Range:   5,400 nautical miles
Duration:   12 hours
Speed:   425 – 490 knots True Air Speed (cruise)
Payload:   30,000 lb


Zenith and nadir instrument ports
Modified window ports for instrument and probe mounting
External antenna mounts
Wing pylon instrument mounts
Optical windows of various materials
Dropsonde delivery tube
Air and aerosol sampling probes
Standard equipment 19-inch racks
Laser chiller unit
Both 400 Hz and 60 Hz power available to experimenter stations
Up to 20 racks and 25 instruments typically accommodated
Seating for up to 44 experimenters and flight crew


The DC-8 maintains a suite of facility sensors and data systems and provides services that can be tailored to specific missions or instruments. Facility sensors and instruments include:

Weather radar
GPS and Inertial Navigational Systems
RADAR altimeter
Total air temperature
Ambient pressure
Relative humidity
Time code Generator (NTP and IRIG-B)
Aircraft video and digital recording system
Housekeeping data acquisition, distribution, and recording
Ethernet LAN with servers and web-based displays

The DC-8 also has Iridium-based communications systems; one for flight crew communications and one for upload of meteorological data, chat messaging, limited data telemetry, and live web page updates on the ground.

NASA DC-8 Airborne Laboratory Program

The NASA DC-8 Airborne Laboratory Program at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center operates a DC-8-72 aircraft to acquire data for airborne science research. The platform aircraft provides for a wide variety of experiments, collecting data in support of scientific projects, to serve the world scientific community. Included in this community are NASA, federal, state, academic, and foreign investigators.

Data gathered at flight altitude and by remote sensing from the DC-8 have been used in many studies including: archeology, ecology, geology, hydrology, meteorology, oceanography, volcanology, atmospheric chemistry, soil science, biology, and other Earth science disciplines. The DC-8 is one of several aircraft based at NASA Dryden that support NASA's Airborne Science Program.

Scientific investigators use the aircraft for earth, atmospheric and celestial observations.

Research includes development of new sensors, and methodology for conducting such observations. Data from operational sensors as well as newly developed instruments are used in applications programs examining subjects such as ozone depletion, tropical rain forest destruction, tropical disease vectors, wildfire investigations and geologic remote sensing.

DC-8 Aircraft

The DC-8 is a medium-altitude, moderate- to high-speed aircraft flying up to 41,000 feet above sea level between 425 and 490 knots True Air Speed (TAS). The DC-8 is capable of precise flight line navigation by means of an integrated inertial and GPS navigation systems from which line guidance is provided to the pilots. The aircraft and its complement of on-board sensors provide a readily deployable remote sensing platform that supports scientific research throughout the conterminous United States, Alaska and Hawaii. Additionally, the aircraft has been deployed in support of research in Australia, Bermuda, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, South America, and Africa.

Earth Science Research

The DC-8 collects data in support of a variety of earth science research projects. Projects are sponsored by NASA scientists, federal agencies, non-profit research institutions, and private industry investigators. Among these have been the FIFE (First ISLSCP Field Experiment) multi-national project, geologic studies for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Geophysics Department at the University of Hawaii, the University of Massachusetts, Goddard Space Flight Center, Ames Research Center, and our own Dryden Flight Research Center.

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Page Last Updated: August 30th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator