Research Title: Airborne Science Program
Funding Level (millions of dollars):
Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (99%) Natural Disaster Reduction Research Subcommittee (1%)
(b) Environmental Issue: Global change (99%) Natural Disaster Reduction (1%)
(c) Research Activity: System Structure and Function: Understanding (100%)
Airborne Science Office, Science Division
Office of Mission to Planet Earth
Washington, DC 20546
Point of Contact:
James R. Huning
To support all branches of the Science Division, the Office of Mission to Planet Earth (OMTPE), NASA, by providing airborne platforms specifically equipped or modified to carry specific instrument payloads to conduct atmospheric, biospheric, lithospheric or cryospheric research.
Platforms are one of a kind and thereby represent unique research facilities (ER-2s and a highly modified DC-8-72 and C-130B aircraft). After instruments, whether core, facility or PI provided, are integrated into the aircraft and successful engineering check flights conducted, the aircraft is certified for science flights. These airborne facilities also support other divisions within OMTPE, and other Offices within NASA (e.g., Space Physics). In a typical year the aircraft fly 1,300-1,600 science research hours, and accumulate 450-550 deployment days per year, with the majority of these foreign deployments.
A sample of the research campaigns for which the airborne assets have been a critical element follow (the majority of these represent interagency and international campaigns):
Antarctic and Arctic Ozone: to investigate ozone hole vortex dynamics and support interagency and international atmospheric chemistry programs (ER-2 and DC-8).
SPADE: Stratospheric Photochemical Detection Experiment under the NASA High Speed Research Program; ER-2 aircraft research the environmental effects of stratospheric air traffic.
GTE: Global Tropospheric Experiment; a series of international campaigns to investigate natural processes that regulate atmospheric chemistry and how those processes are being perturbed by human activities and at what rates. A systematic study of biological sources of atmospheric chemicals, global distributions and long- range transport of chemical species, and reactions in the troposphere that lead to the conversion, redistribution and removal of atmospheric chemicals (DC-8).
ESTAR: The Electronically Scanned Thin-Array Radiometer, a unique array of receivers which provides fine resolution of soil moisture measurements, critical for understanding the water cycle (C-130);
BOREAS: An international land surface climatology experiment to provide improved understanding of the energy balance in the forest canopy structure, biochemical, and biophysical properties, and soil moisture conditions (C-130, ER-2 and DC-8);
TOGA/COARE: The Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere/Coupled Ocean- Atmosphere Response Experiment investigated the boundary layer, mesoscale cloud precipitation physics and phenomena associated with the ocean-atmosphere and the interaction between them in the warm pool region of the western Pacific Ocean (ER-2 and DC-8);
SCAR: The Smoke, Clouds and Radiation Measurement international experiment, to be conducted in low latitudes (Brazil) to measure interaction between naturally occurring and perturbed environments and the interrelationship to solar radiation (ER-2);
LASE: Lidar Atmosphere Sensing Experiment; an airborne tunable lidar to measure atmospheric water vapor (ER-2);
SIR-C: Shuttle Imaging Radar-C; numerous underflights sites for the SIR-C, experiments in data calibration, algorithm development and related data sets (DC-8).
Australia/AIRSAR: Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar, an international campaign to investigate the role of soils in the global carbon cycle, geomorphology, geology and hydrology in Australia in preparation for SIR-C/X-SAR shuttle overflights (DC- 8).
EOS: a large number of individual and coordinated flights conducted in support of the EOS project (DC-8, ER-2, C-130).
The airborne assets are made available to other Federal agencies on a cost- reimbursable and non-interference basis with NASA-funded programs. Recently the Airborne Science Program assets have supported the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The program, because of its support to all science branches of OMTPE, NASA, is tightly coupled to research campaigns of the interagency and international organizations.
The current airborne research campaigns will be continued. 1997: ER-2 aircrafts will be re-engined.
Without the airborne assets many science programs could not conduct field campaigns or provide instrument prototype or algorithm development for U.S. Global Change Research programs, and in particular those that involve the Earth Observing System (EOS).