[GRAPHIC: Figure 44: Aircraft Utilization FY98-FY09]
Joint Airborne Science Sensor
Integration Working Group
The Airborne Science Program has initiated a multi-center working group to examine the differences in engineering requirements and processes across the airborne science fleet, and to assess the potential benefits for common information and design requirements among the aircraft. The Joint Airborne Science Sensor Integration Working Group (or JASSIWG) was made up from representatives from six NASA centers, as well as the Aerospace Corporation and NSERC.
The goal of the working group is to improve access to NASA airborne platforms from the science community by coordinating and streamlining NASA aircraft instrument integration requirements and technical information across the platforms. This streamlining will allow a more consistent access experience by the science community, and will encourage migration of science instruments across the NASA fleet. It has the added advantage of reducing redundant activities and fostering communication across the NASA centers, as well as improving science management operations. A key element of the success of the JASSIWG effort is the consensus and acceptance by both the science and aircraft engineering communities to a more common requirements set.
Current JASSIWG activities are focused on the development of updated aircraft platform Experimenter Handbooks, using a common structure and format, and analysis of aircraft integration requirements to assess potential for commonality.
During FY09, the working group conducted two meetings to discuss general approach, planned work, and consensus documents. The working group developed a Payload Information Form (PIF), which will be used by the PI-community to define needs and requirements for integrating and flying scientific payloads on NASA Airborne Science platforms. In addition, a standard outline, format, and requirements syntax for the Experiment Handbooks was agreed to. Each of the centers has agreed to update their respective handbooks by March 2010. These include the DC-8, ER-2, WB-57, P-3, G-III, Global Hawk, Langley B-200/UC-12B, S-3, Twin Otter, Learjet 25, and SIERRA aircraft.
Extensive effort was devoted to extracting, reviewing, and assessing aircraft requirements for four of the ASP platforms, the DC-8, ER-2, WB-57, and P-3. Approximately 850 design, operational, and safety requirements were identified for the four platforms, which were put into spreadsheet form for additional analysis. These requirements were binned by subsystem (electrical, mechanical, etc.) and were assessed for: (1) conditions under which they must be met by the PI, (2) clarity of description and syntax, potential redundancy with other similar requirements, and (3) the degree to which similar requirements might be made common (standard practice) across the aircraft.
A web page has been developed as a part of the Airborne Science Program web site to describe the function of the working group and to be the source for the documents generated by the JASSIWG effort (http://airbornescience.nasa.gov/instrument/JASSIWG). In addition, an internal web archive was set up by NSERC to host working documents, draft analyses, past presentations, etc.
Results of the JASSIWG efforts were presented at the 2009 ASP Annual Review and the Interagency Coordinating Committee for Airborne Geosciences Research and Applications (ICCAGRA) working group meeting. Also, a technical paper and poster of the JASSIWG approach and results were given at the 33rd International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE), in Stresa, Italy in May 2009.
Core Fleet and Catalog Aircraft
The task of providing sustained access to highly modified aircraft for research observations requires a diverse portfolio of NASA investments in core aircraft coupled with strategic partnerships with NASA centers, other agencies and industry. The core platforms sustained by NASA ASP, which include the WB-57, ER-2, DC-8, G-III, and P-3B. All are unique, highly modified aircraft with significant investments in ports, hard points, pods and other infrastructure. These national assets provide assured access to capabilities that cannot be found anywhere else, including very high altitudes, extreme duration flight, large payload, all for a reasonable hourly cost to the project. When the core aircraft capabilities exceed partner requirements, the catalog aircraft, consisting of NASA, other government agency, and commercial aircraft are often a more appropriate choice. Commercial aircraft that respond to the yearly Broad Agency Announcement and clear interviews and inspections are then available under a Blanket Purchase Agreement to immediately respond to project need. NASA also invests in a few new technology platforms to determine and demonstrate their potential utility to airborne Earth system science investigations. Currently the Global Hawk is funded as a new technology platform, while the SIERRA and Ikhana are recent graduates.
[GRAPHIC: Table 2: Platform capabilities and specifications of available aircraft.]
The NASA DC-8 completed its second year of operations flying from its new home at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility (DAOF) located in Palmdale, California. The University of North Dakota, National Suborbital Education and Research Center (NSERC) under cooperative agreement with NASA, continues to promote and support science operations using the DC-8 Airborne Science Laboratory.
The NASA DC-8 aircraft flew 47 flight hours during FY09 in its support of the following major missions: TM (Telemetry) Relay, SARP (Student Airborne Research Program), and Operation ICE Bridge instrument integration missions. Operation Ice Bridge flights continued into FY10. The aircraft remained reliable throughout the year accomplishing all planned missions.
Technology improvements to the DC-8 aircraft also continued throughout FY09. Aircraft facilities and hardware upgrades on the DC-8 included:
• Installation of new high reliability data system servers and UPS systems.
• Upgraded Iridium communications system that was increased from 4 channels to 8 channels increasing the bandwidth to19.2 KB/second.
• New high speed dual channel Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) Inmarsat communications systems providing 864 KB/second possible bandwidth.
• Yoke-mounted tablet computers linked to the aircraft data network that enable flight situational awareness and communications for the pilots.
• New distribution system for pulse-per-second (PPS) timing data and National Maritime Electronics Association (NMEA) GPS data.
New facility instruments are:
- Three stage EdgeTech Hygrometers for relative humidity measurements
- Heitronics Infrared Radiation Pyrometers for IR surface temperature measurements
- Rosemount temperature probes for Total and Static Air temperature
- High resolution cabin pressure transducers
Looking forward into FY10, the aircraft has recently completed its B-Check airworthiness inspection and is preparing to complete Service Bulletin inspections on all four engines and the wing fuel tanks in preparation for missions planned to start in March 2010. The maintenance work is ARRA funded. The aircraft will also enter a low utilization maintenance program (LUMP) beginning in 2010, which will minimize the amount of time out of service for maintenance in the future.
Details on the DC-8, its capabilities, and points of contact can be found at: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/aircraft/DC-8/index.html
[GRAPHICS: Figure 45: Ktech TM data receiving antenna mounted in nose of DC-8 supporting NASA/USAF Vandenberg, CA rocket launch TM Relay Mission. The SOFIA aircraft is in the background; Figure 46: Students return from another successful DC-8 SARP mission to Palmdale, CA; and Figure 47: University of Kansas MCoRDS antenna system is integrated to the DC-8 in preparation for Antarctic Operation ICE Bridge mission.]
NASA operates two ER-2 (806 and 809) aircraft as readily deployable high altitude sensor platforms to collect remote sensing and in situ data on earth resources, atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, and oceanic processes. The aircraft also are used for electronic sensor research, development and demonstrations, satellite calibration and satellite data validation. Operating at 70,000 feet (21.3 km), the ER-2 acquires data above ninety-five percent of the earth’s atmosphere. The aircraft also yields an effective horizon of 300 miles (480 km) or greater at altitudes of 70,000 feet.
In November 2008, ER-2 806 was taken out of service temporarily to conduct a required 200 hour phase inspection.
In February, the ER-2 team integrated the Tropospheric Wind Lidar Experiment, TWiLiTE, sensor and flew its first flight on February 19, 2009. Unfortunately, the sensor encountered some in-flight failures and had to be returned to home base for trouble shooting and repair. The sensor flew again in September.
In March, the ER-2 team conducted four Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) flights over the Santa Monica Mountains and two Autonomous Modular Systems (AMS) sensor flights utilizing both aircraft 806 and 809, showing team flexibility on accomplishing flight requirements.
In April, the ER-2 team continued to fly the AVIRIS sensor on A/C 809 over required experiment sites. Team also uploaded the Large Area Collectors (LAC) and began flying sensor towards end of April and into May. A new Sandia National Laboratories High Altitude Telemetry Sensor (HATS) sensor was successfully integrated into A/C 809 and flown over Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In May, ER-2 team completed flying the LAC and the HATS sensor and began to prepare for the upcoming deployment campaign at Dayton Ohio. In mid June, the ER-2 809 deployed to Wright-Patterson AFB (WPAFB), in Dayton, OH, in support of the WPAFB-AVIRIS campaign.
Science flights were also conducted over sites in Canada (Alberta, Ontario and North of Hudson bay), New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, W. Virginia, Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota. The AVIRIS flights were conducted to gather data and characterize forest functional types by canopy-based measurement of three key functional traits: cell structure, shade tolerance, and recalcitrance. Data will also be used to investigate forest growth, carbon cycling and the interaction between ecosystems and climate. During the WPAFB-AVIRIS campaign the ER2 806 flew a total of 55.2 hours (including 12 hrs of transit time) of the estimated 69.8 hrs (79%) during the WPAFB AVIRIS/CPL campaign. A total of 35 defined experimental sites were flown and some sites were repeated. The WPAFB-AVIRIS campaign was completed on July 29, 2009.
In August, the team continued to fly the AVIRIS sensor over required experiment sites in Southern and Northern California. In September, the TWiLiTE sensor returned to DFRC and was uploaded into A/C 806 and completed it required flights.
In summary, the ER-2’s flew a total of 204 flight hours combined totaling 72 sorties.
In addition, In 2009, the ER-2 project supported several education and outreach events by providing a presentation and demonstration of the pressure suit. Presentations were made at several local schools in the Antelope Valley, at an Edwards AFB air show, at the TATTOO air show at WPAFB, Dayton Ohio, and at the special Air Force Junior ROTC “honors camps” at the University of Oklahoma and University of New Mexico. The ER-2 team also supported the NASA Headquarters aeronautics theme at the Albuquerque balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In fiscal year 2010 the ER-2 operations will be re-located from DFRC hangar 4840, to the Dryden’s Aircraft Operations Facility (DAOF) in Palmdale. This move, along with efforts to share infrastructure with other projects, will allow the ER-2 to continue to maintain its reduced hourly flight cost.
Details on the ER-2s, their capabilities, and points of contact can be found at: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/research/AirSci/ER-2/
[GRAPHICS: Figure 48: TWiLiTE in Q-Bay of ER-2.]
9 was a busy year for NASA’s WB-57s. In FY09, the two WB-57s flew a total of 849.6 hours, split almost equally between the two aircraft.
The WB-57 did not fly any Airborne Science missions this year, but time was devoted to mission planning for upcoming Airborne Science flights. The MACPEX mission is currently planned for May-June of 2010 and will carry a suite of approximately 21 instruments. Instrument selection began in December of 2009.
The gross weight increase project, which began near the beginning of FY08, made great progress this year and will be completed in the first quarter of FY10. The goal is to increase the allowable take-off weight to 72,000 lbs, an increase of 9,000 lbs, or 14% over the existing weight.
In parallel to the gross weight increase project, the superpods project was worked to allow the WB-57 to fly ER-2 superpods on the mounts that were previously used for J-60 engines, just outboard of the main WB-57 TF-33 engines. Each superpod assembly on the will be able to accommodate 400 pounds of payload in the forebody and an additional 175 pounds in the midbody.
The addition of the superpod capability will enable the Airborne Science Program to fly selected payloads on either the ER-2 or WB-57 aircraft with no modification. The increased gross weight provides increased payload carrying capability, and increased fuel capacity in a variety of aircraft configurations. Aircraft range and endurance penalties due to payload weight will be reduced or eliminated for all configurations.
In February 2009, the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law, $1.6 million of which will go towards the remanufacture of ailerons for the WB-57. This is timely because currently there is no source of spare or replacement ailerons for the WB-57 aircraft. The aileron is a control surface located on the trailing edge of the wing that controls the aircraft in the roll axis. If the ailerons on either of NASA’s WB-57 aircraft fail or are damaged, the aircraft down time required for repair would be unacceptable from an operations and schedule perspective. A similar delay to phased maintenance would result if an unacceptable condition (crack, corrosion, etc.) were to be found on the aileron during inspection.
A three-phase approach was taken, with phase zero being paid for with non-ARRA funds to get the project started as soon as possible. Phase zero includes the engineering evaluation of spare ailerons, and the engineering for both the honeycomb panels and the trim tabs. Phase one includes the engineering for the leading edge assemblies and the procurement and manufacturing of the honeycomb panels and trim tabs. Phase two will include the leading edge procurement and manufacturing and the final assembly of the ailerons. The program is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010.
Planned for early 2010 is a series of test flights for a new Instrument Incubator Program (IIP) instrument, the High-Altitude Imaging Wind and Rain Profiler (HIWRAP). The principle investigator is Gerald Heymsfield from NASA-GSFC. HIWRAP will be installed on a 6-foot pallet on the WB-57. Since the HIWRAP instrument will only take up a small fraction of the carrying capability of the WB-57, two payloads will piggyback on the HIWRAP flights. The Hurricane Imaging Radiometer (HIRAD) from NASA-MSFC will measure ocean surface wind speeds. The Diode Laser Hygrometer (DLH), built by Glenn Diskin at NASA-LaRC is also scheduled to fly with HIWRAP. DLH testing began during the NOVICE mission in 2008, but was not completed at that time.
Details on the WB-57’s, their capabilities, and points of contact can be found at: http://jsc-aircraft-ops.jsc.nasa.gov/wb57/.
The P-3 is based at Goddard Space Flight Center’s (GSFC’s) Wallops Flight Facility (WFF). The P-3 participated in an instrument development experiment and two major missions during FY09.
The instrument test experiment involved a series of local instrument development flights from Wallops for the GSFC Airborne Earth Science Microwave Imaging Radiometer (AESMIR) in January of 2009. A total of 15.8 hours were flown in support of these test flights.
The first major mission of the year was High Winds based out of Goose Bay, Canada in February and March 2009 for the purpose of Aquarius algorithm development. The principal objective was to develop algorithms capable of deriving ocean salinity in a high wind regime, for example, in the North Atlantic winter. The detailed objectives are described elsewhere in this report. All mission objectives were met with a total of 48.2 science flight hours in support of the High Winds mission.
The second major mission of the year was Operation Ice Bridge (Greenland) that was conducted in late March through early May. The mission was an expansion of the annual P-3 deployment to Greenland in order to “bridge” between ICESat-I and ICESat-II. The objectives were focused on ice sheet extent and thickness along with sea ice measurements and underflights of ICESat-I. This mission resulted in the most flight hours on the P-3 for any mission. Operation Ice Bridge will be an annual mission until ICESat-II is launched. There were 171.2 science hours flown supporting Operation Ice Bridge..
The P-3 spent the rest of FY09 after Ice Bridge in heavy maintenance at the AeroUnion Corporation in Chico, CA. A thorough wing inspection was conducted as part of the Special Structural Inspection as a result of the aircraft reaching 19,000 total flight hours. Some repairs were required as a result of the inspection. All of the required repairs were made.
The P-3 flew a total of 291.5 flight hours in support of the Airborne Science Program.
Details on the P-3, its capabilities, and points of contact can be found at: http://wacop.wff.nasa.gov/LAAPBDesc.cfm
[GRAPHICS: Figure 49: P-3 at Thule AFB for Operation Ice Bridge flights.]
NASA DFRC operates the Gulfstream III (G-III), which became part of the ASP core fleet during 2009. The primary work of the G-III is to carry the L-band UAV-SAR instrument, a NASA JPL-developed payload for repeat-pass interferometry. To accomplish repeat pass successfully, the aircraft is flown with a custom-designed precision avionics package, designed by NASA DFRC.
The UAVSAR project began at JPL in 2004, and produced its first image in 2007 over Rosemond Dry Lake. Engineering flights continued into FY 2009, with the first science flight on February 18, 2009. The UAVSAR program was highly successful in 2009, flying 440.2 hrs during the period January 22 to October 2, 2009, on the G-III aircraft.
The G-III performed UAV-SAR missions in FY09 carrying both the original L-band SAR, and an alternative Ka-band SAR. Each instrument was integrated into a separate pod. The Ka-Band SAR operations and L-Band SAR operations over Greenland were part of an IPY program described elsewhere.
Deployments/Missions in FY09 included:
• Greenland & Iceland (May/June)
• Cascades & Alaska (July)
• Bangor Maine (August)
• Cascades & Alaska (Sept.)
The G-III flew a total flight hours of 431.1 in FY09.
G-III UAVSAR plans for FY10 include 34 flight requests with approximately 550 flight hours. These include local flights and deployments to Hawaii, Central America, Canada, and Alaska. Local science flights from Palmdale, California include imaging of the San Andreas and Hayward Faults, Monitoring the Sacramento Delta Levees, and obtaining Soil Moisture in the San Joaquin Valley. The Hawaiian deployment will primarily involve repeat pass imaging of the Volcanoes on the Big Island and also baseline imaging for ground deformation/ground movement studies of the islands of Maui, Molokai and Oahu. The Central American deployment will cover mapping of 3D vegetation structure, Volcanoes, and Mayan Archeology in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Imaging of the Gulf Coast near New Orleans for subsidence studies and imaging of the Mississippi River Levees are also planned this deployment. Upcoming deployments include a Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission based in Saskatchewan, Canada and imaging US volcanoes in the Cascades and Alaska.
JPL continues to make system upgrades to the UAVSAR. Aircraft maintenance will include completing the right engine overhaul. American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds were approved to fabricate a 3rd UAVSAR pod to enable supporting both development of the Global Hawk UAVSAR capability and continuing G-III missions. The fabrication of the 3rd pod is expected to be completed by July 2010
Details on the UAVSAR instrument and the G-III, its capabilities, and points of contact can be found at: http://uavsar.jpl.nasa.gov/ and at
The Airborne Science Program provides NASA scientists with access to a virtual catalog of NASA-owned aircraft, interagency aircraft, university operated aircraft, and commercial aircraft. In this, ASP leverages the ability to support our science customers with the right platform to get the required airborne measurements to produce effective, lowest cost science results. Since non-core aircraft are only used when needed, they are not funded except on a fully reimbursable basis, thus saving the agency significant funds while making available to the science community a wide variety of platforms in a cost efficient manner. Since FY2007, many of our commercial aircraft have been incorporated into a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) that establishes rates and a contract mechanism to quickly use the companies’ services. At the same time there is no minimum purchase requirement.
NASA LaRC Aircraft
B-200 and UC-12B
The Research Services Directorate (RSD) at the NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) operates a Hawker Beechcraft King Air B200 and a similar aircraft, a former military UC-12B. The aircraft are based at LaRC in Hampton, Virginia. RSD has experience working with science customers to optimize missions to meet their research requirements within the operational characteristics of the aircraft. The King Air aircraft are ideally suited for small to mid-sized instruments flying dedicated profiles or operating in conjunction with other instruments in these or other aircraft flying coordinated patterns.
The two aircraft incorporate the following features and systems: GPS navigation systems, weather radar, up linked weather information and TCAS in the cockpit; 29 x 29-in. and 22 x 26-in. nadir-viewing portals with an available pressure dome fitted for the smaller aft portal; electrical power distribution and AC conversions systems; GPS antenna outputs; and Iridium satellite phone accessibility. An Applanix 510 and associated PosTrak navigation and display system are available at LaRC to enhance the overall navigation system capabilities of either aircraft. Starting in FY09, the Applanix 510 has flown regularly on the B200 aircraft. An in situ sampling head, outside air temperature probe, and hygrometer probe are installed on the exterior of the UC-12B aircraft to support LaRC’s In situ Atmospheric Sampling System. Also, the UC-12B aircraft has a cargo door for oversized components, in addition to the passenger entry door.
These twin-engine turboprop airplanes are certified to 35,000 ft for the B200 and 31,000 ft for the UC-12B aircraft, but are non-Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) certified and, therefore, limited to 28,000 ft in the National Airspace System (NAS) without prior FAA coordination and approval. At maximum takeoff gross weights, the aircraft can carry a crew of three (pilot, co-pilot and research system operator), a 1200-lbs research payload, and enough fuel for a 4-5 hour high-altitude mission covering 800-1000 nautical miles.
Over the past year these two aircraft have successfully re-integrated and flown four research payloads:
• High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL) - LaRC (B200)
• Research Scanning Polarimeter (RSP) - NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (B200)
• In situ Atmospheric Sampling System - LaRC (UC-12B)
• Advanced Carbon and Climate Laser International Mission (ACCLAIM) instrument – ITT (UC-12B)
FY09 mission accomplishments included 155 and 73.2 research flight hours on the B200 and UC-12B aircraft, respectively. The following missions were flown:
• Local CALIPSO validation flights on the B200 aircraft with HSRL
• B200 deployment to Birmingham, Alabama for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with HSRL and RSP
• B200 over flights of South Carolina wild fires with HSRL and RSP for the EPA
• B200 deployment to Ponca City, Oklahoma for the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Routine AAF Clouds with Low Optical Water Depths Optical Radiative Observations (RACORO) campaign with HSRL and RSP
• Local research flights on the UC-12B aircraft for Advance CO2 Sensing of Emissions over Nights, Days and Seasons (ASCENDS) with the LaRC In situ Atmospheric Sampling System and the ITT ACCLAIM instrument
• UC-12B deployment to Ponca City, Oklahoma for ASCENDS with the LaRC In situ Atmospheric Sampling System and the ITT ACCLAIM instrument
During FY09, the two LaRC aircraft flew coordinated patterns with several other atmospheric science platform aircraft. Specifically, the B200 aircraft flew coordinated patterns with the CIRPAS Twin Otter during the RACORO mission. In addition, during the UC-12B’s deployment to Ponca City, the aircraft flew in conjunction with the DOE Cessna, NASA Glenn (GRC) Lear 25, and Twin Otter International’s Twin Otter. At the conclusion of the deployment, the LaRC UC-12B aircraft conducted two flights with the GRC Lear 25 from LaRC.
The over flights of the South Carolina wild fires were made one day after receipt of the EPA’s request for HSRL measurements of the smoke plumes. The over flights were made from LaRC, with no deployments required.
Projected missions for FY10 include: CALIPSO validation flights across a wide range of latitudes; ASCENDS development flights; EPA-sponsored biomass-burning research flights; the DOE’s Carbonaceous Aerosol and Radiative Effects Study campaign; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) CalNex campaign.
The B200 and UC-12B aircraft have been included in four Earth Venture proposals.
The Research Services Directorate (RSD) at LaRC also operates a Cessna 206H Stationair general aviation aircraft for aeronautics and atmospheric sciences research, in addition to the two King Air aircraft described elsewhere in this report. The aircraft is based at NASA LaRC in Hampton, Virginia.
The Cessna 206H incorporates the following features and systems: GPS navigation systems; up-linked weather information in the cockpit; researcher work station in the rear seat; Universal Access Transceiver; ADS-B; NASA LaRC General Aviation Baseline Research System (GABRS); electrical power distribution and AC conversion systems; and GPS antenna outputs.
The aircraft is certified to 15,700 ft (supplemental oxygen is required above 12,500 ft). With maximum fuel at 55% power, the aircraft can carry a crew of three (pilot, co-pilot, and researcher), a 575-lb payload (in excess of the GABRS), and enough fuel for a 5.7-hour flight covering 700 nautical miles.