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NASA Dryden Past Projects: Global Test Range and Over-the-Horizon Networks
August 2, 2012

Welcome to the Global Test Range Development Center, a component of the Test Systems Directorate at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. For over a dozen years we have been developing network-oriented solutions to challenging distributed test, measurement, and remote observation problems. The Global Range is one of the places where NASA is pioneering airborne sensor web tools and intelligent observation capabilities for science, exploration, and aeronautics applications.

From here you can browse our Tools and Technologies and Projects Highlights pages and take a look at the projects we are working or have worked on. This site also has some background information on the technical challenges we address, our customers, and our partners.


At the beginning of this century, NASA and other Government agencies were converging toward a vision for integrating Earth observation resources in order to make optimal and timely use of the knowledge being gained from the growing and diverse set of measurements being made. Rapid understanding of distributed knowledge and resources would be made possible through integration into decision support systems that would grow in capability over time.

Researchers at NASA Dryden were in a similar frame of mind, with a focus on the role networked communication would have on test and measurement activities involving aircraft platforms. In 2004 the Airborne Science Program began investing resources to adapt products of Dryden research to the emerging need for researchers to communicate remotely with their instruments via network communications. We referred to this capability as suborbital telepresence: network access is the next best thing to being there. We were flying the following year and adding value not only to operation of individual instruments but to the field campaign itself via situational awareness displays. These situational awareness displays included data from the aircraft integrated with terrestrial map and weather information developed by our first customer and now development collaborators at NASA Marshall

We continued to grow this capability by evolving airborne and terrestrial infrastructure, both hardware and software. We flew as often as we could. Our goal was to deliver a prototype (v1.0) fleet wide suborbital telepresence capability by 2010. Various efforts of colleagues at other field centers complimented our efforts. Our use of Google Earth and Internet chat accelerated emergence of useful tools. Our 2008 experience forces us to conclude that we have already reached critical mass: customers extract so much value from suborbital telepresence services that they are no longer satisfied without it. There is still much work to do in the decades ahead in order to fully realize the potential of suborbital telepresence, but operational transition is effectively underway.

This past year (2008), major development efforts included the prototyping of infrastructure on the P-3B to mimic the DC-8 capability, start of construction by NASA Ames of the first "NASDAT" class of REVEAL system, documentation of REVEAL software, the successful prototyping of a small REVEAL system for small UAVs, the installation of a REVEAL system at JPL and on the G-III to support UAVSAR. From an operations view, we supported over 570 flight hours (all field campaigns) this year on ER-2, DC-8 and P-3B.

The vision for the Integrated Earth Observation System is long term – just getting through the initial implementation phase will take a decade. Likewise, suborbital telepresence capabilities are just beginning. Our efforts to date have, however, validated the hypothesis that a system-of-systems architecture to facilitate integration of diverse data leading to timely situational awareness is a game-changing investment worth continuing.

Point of Contact
Lawrence C. Freudinger
Email: Lawrence C. Freudinger

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Page Last Updated: February 9th, 2014
Page Editor: Yvonne Gibbs