|Posted on Apr 02, 2010 12:21:04 AM | NASA Earth Science News Team | 2 Comments ||
The newest bird in NASA's flock -- the unmanned Global Hawk -- took off at 7 a.m. Pacific time today (April 2) from Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The flight is the first airborne checkout of the plane since it was loaded with 11 science instruments for the Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) mission.
Pilots are also streamlining processes to coordinate the workload while the nearly autonomous plane is flying at altitudes above 60,000 feet (almost twice as high as a commercial airliner). Operators and mission researchers are using the day to make sure all instruments are operating properly while in flight -- particularly at the cold temperatures of high altitude -- and communicating clearly with the plane and ground controllers. Mission participants expect to begin collecting data when actual GloPac science flights begin over the Pacific Ocean later this month.
GloPac is the Global Hawk's first scientific mission. Instruments will sample the chemical composition of air in Earth's two lowest atmospheric layers -- the stratosphere and troposphere -- and profile the dynamics and meteorology of both. They also will observe the distribution of clouds and aerosol particles. The instruments are operated by scientists and technicians from seven science institutions and are funded by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
...There is an old Latin quote: “Maxima omnium virtutum est patientia.” Or “patience is the greatest virtue.” When it comes to mounting science instruments on an aircraft, you need to continually return to that quote......During the integration this week, we’ve had to cut holes into the aircraft. I told Chris Naftel, the Global Hawk project manager, that we had to cut some holes into the plane for the Meteorological Measurement System. Chris replied: “I don’t want to hear anything about the holes. It pains me!” In spite of Chris’ pain, the little holes are critical for measuring winds. You’re now asking, what? Little holes? For winds? It’s actually a very slick little measurement that relies on the work of Daniel Bernoulli, a Dutch mathematician who lived in the 1700s...
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Tags : Ames Research Center, Dryden Flight Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, aerosols, airborne research, atmosphere, clouds, global change, greenhouse, meteorology, web sites