One of two Global Hawks available to NASA for earth science
and research, on display for the media 1/15/09
Photo: Tony Landis
1/15/2009 - EDWARDS AFB, CA – NASA and Northrop Grumman
Corporation have officially 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
"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.
NASA pilot Mark Pestana points out graphic displays of
flight data in the Global Hawk Operations Center at NASA's
Dryden Flight Research Center 1/15/09
Photo: Tom Tschida
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
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.
Source: NASA Press Release