Table of contents executive Summary

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[GRAPHICS: Figure 28: University of Alaska, Fairbanks, contracted single engine Otter on Alaskan glacier, May 2009; and Figure 29: A greeting from team members at Palmer Station, Antarctic Peninsula, during overpass flight of the NASA DC-8. Photo taken by the Digital Mapping System.]
Western States Fire

Science Focus:

Applied Science: Disaster Management

HQ Sponsor:

Ambrose, Dorne



The Western States UAS Fire Imaging effort project, received ARRA funding to continue support of wildfire imaging efforts through 2011. The efforts focus on the use of the NASA Ikhana UAS and the NASA DFRC B200 King Air (currently under airframe modifications). The Ikhana is currently allowed to fly fire missions within 50 nm of Special Use Airspace (SUA). This limitation has steered the WRAP team to look to additional manned platforms (NASA DFRC B200 King Air) for less restrictive flight operation capabilities. The NASA DFRC B200 King Air is being modified to allow various sensor packages and satellite data telemetry to be outfitted on the platform, and is planned for platform / sensor check-flights in Summer 2010, prior to the major western US fire season. The WRAP team anticipates use of that platform to support wildfire imaging efforts.

Due to a minimal fire season in fall 2008 (early FY2009), the AMS-Wildfire sensor and the Ikhana did not support any fire data collection missions. During the second and third FY quarter of FY2009, the Autonomous Modular Scanner (AMS)-Wildfire sensor spectral characteristics were modified to prepare it for use in supporting atmospheric science on the NASA Global Hawk UAS, as part of the GloPac mission series. Due to weight and balance issues with the Global Hawk platform, the AMS-Wildfire was removed from the GloPac payload. The sensor was de-integrated and made available to support wildfire observation missions on the Ikhana in late summer 2009. After sensor spectral channel modifications in September 2009 (to change the mid-IR channels to their fire imaging characteristics used previously), the AMS-Wildfire was further modified by expanding the sensor from 12-channels to 16-channels, allowing for both high- and low-gain sensor spectral sensitivities in the mid-infrared (Mid-IR) and thermal-infrared (TIR) wavelength channels (channels 9-12). This allowed for improved discrimination of wildfire properties.
After the sensor modifications were completed, the AMS was installed in the Ikhana and a test flight was flown to ensure system operations prior to supporting national / state fire emergencies. A four-hour test flight was flown September 11, 2009 within the confines of the Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) Restricted Area, and system shakeout occurred. Following the test mission, various issues involving the aircraft / satcom data telemetry system were discovered (nationwide fleet issues) and the aircraft / sensor issues were worked on extensively.
The western US fire season was considered “light” by previous fire year averages and nationwide, the season was closed by mid-October 2009. No fire support missions were therefore flown in late FY 2009. The southern California fire season remained an area of concern, due to the frequent occurrence of Santa Ana wind conditions, spawning large fire complexes. Due to these potential fire issues, both the NASA-ARC and NASA-DFRC Ikhana mission team remained at-the-ready to support any necessary wildfire emergency request flights in October / November 2009 (early FY2010).
For more information, visit:
[GRAPHIC: Figure 30: Image of Station Fire that burned 160,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest obtained with AMS sensor.]
HQ sponsor: Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate

During January and February 2009 the DC-8 was employed in a ground test series to support the Alternative Aviation Fuel Experiment (AAFEX) at the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility (DAOF) in Palmdale, California. The rising cost of oil coupled with the need to reduce pollution and dependence on foreign suppliers has spurred great interest and activity in developing alternative aviation fuels. Detailed studies are required to ascertain the exact impacts of the fuels on engine operation and exhaust composition. In response to this need, NASA acquired candidate alternative fuels from a variety of sources and burned the fuels in the NASA DC-8 to assess changes in the aircraft’s CFM-56 engine performance and emission parameters relative to operation with standard JP-8. The AAFEX Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate project managed by Dan Bulzan of NASA Glen Research Center and under the direction of the Project Lead Scientist Bruce Anderson of NASA Langley Research Center, the AAFEX tests sought to establish fuel matrix effects on: 1) engine and exhaust gas temperatures and compressor speeds and pressures; 2) engine and auxiliary power unit (APU) gas phase and particle emissions and characteristics; and 3) volatile aerosol formation in aging exhaust plumes. A secondary goal of the study was to evaluate the role of ambient conditions in regulating volatile aerosol emissions. Gas phase measurements included the standard certification species (CO2, CO, NOx, and THC) along with hydrocarbons, hazardous air pollutants (HAPS), and oxygenated compounds. Measured particle parameters included smoke number; number density, size distribution and total mass; black carbon morphology, composition and total mass; volatile aerosol speciation and mass; and particle mixing state. In addition to NASA, test participants included DOD, FAA, EPA, Boeing, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard, MSU, UCSD, and UTRC.

During AAFEX, the aircraft was parked outdoors in the DAOF open-air engine run-up facility and complete sets of gas and particle emission measurements were made as a function of thrust as the engine alternately burned JP-8 or one of the alternative fuels. Two fuels were procured for the tests: a Fischer/Tropsch (FT) fuel prepared from natural gas and an FT fuel made from coal. The test series consisted of five fuel configurations: (1) Standard JP-8, (2) Shell Fischer-Tropsch fuel from natural gas (FT1), (3) 50/50 JP-8/FT1 blend, (4) Sasol Fischer-Tropsch fuel from coal (FT2) and, (5) 50/50 JP-8/FT2 blend.
To delineate fuel-matrix related changes in emissions from those caused by changes in ambient conditions, samples were alternately drawn from the exhaust of an engine on the opposite wing, which was simultaneously burning JP-8. To examine plume chemistry and particle evolution in time, samples were drawn from inlet probes positioned 1, and 30 m downstream of the aircraft’s inboard engines; instruments were also placed in a trailer parked ~200 meters behind the aircraft to measure aerosol and gaseous properties in the more aged plume. In addition, the 1 m rake included multiple gas and aerosol inlet tips so that during initial tests, emissions could be mapped across the breadth of the engine exhaust plane to establish the extent of the core-flow region within the near-field plume. Taking advantage of the broad diurnal variation in air temperature in the Mojave Desert, tests were conducted in the early morning and at mid-day to examine the effect of ambient conditions on gas phase and volatile aerosol emissions.
Preliminary results have shown that: (1) Alternative fuels do not affect engine performance but may cause fuel system seal leaks. (2) Engine black carbon emissions are substantially reduced when burning Fischer-Tropsch fuels. (3) The aircraft engine consumes ambient methane at most power settings. (4) A great deal was learned regarding the temperature dependence of engine emissions which will be used to influence local air quality modeling.
For more information, visit:

[GRAPHIC: Figure 31: Arial view of the AAFEX test setup showing DC-8 in the open-air engine run-up facility at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, CA.]


Ambrose, Dorne



RACORO was a deployment to Oklahoma for the Routine ARM Aerial Facility (AAF) Clouds with Low Optical Water Depths Optical Radiative Observations (RACORO) sponsored by the Department of Energy ( ). The B200 deployed the HSRL and the Research Scanning Polarimeter, which is the prototype for the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor that will launch on the Glory satellite in 2010. On RACORO, the B200 flew coordinated patterns with the CIRPAS Twin Otter, which was outfitted with a variety of in situ cloud and aerosol sensors. In addition to significantly augmenting the science output from the DOE’s RACORO effort, this campaign also provided a data set that will be used to assess future satellite aerosol and cloud retrievals, including Air Particulate Sampler (APS) retrievals, combined APS-CALIPSO retrievals, and retrievals relevant to the next generation polarimeter and lidar combination on the ACE Decadal Survey mission.

For more information, visit:
[GRAPHIC: Figures 32: DOE Radiation monitoring site in Oklahoma. Flight tracks for Twin Otter flying below and the King Air flying above; and Figure 33: A High Spectral Resolution Lidar and Research Scanning Polarimeter are located within the King Air.]
TM Relay
HQ sponsor: NASA Launch Services Program

NASA Airborne Science added yet another new role to its résumé in May when the DC-8, teamed with Ktech, successfully relayed and recorded telemetry transmitted by a Delta II rocket boosting a satellite into orbit. NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) asked the Airborne Science Program to show that the DC-8 could rendezvous over 1100 miles off the tip of Baja with a rocket launched from Vandenberg AFB and provide real-time data to the launch team back at Kennedy Space Center. The Delta II rocket provided by LSP contractor United Launch Alliance carried an experimental satellite for the Missile Defense Agency. Ktech provided the telemetry tracking and receiving equipment and technical support team on the DC-8.

[GRAPHIC: Figure 34: Launching of Delta II rocket from Vandenberg AFB.]
Instrument Test Flights

In FY 2009, the Airborne Science Program continued to support technology development, including projects funded by the Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) Instrument Incubator Program (IIP) and Airborne Instrument Technology Transfer (AITT) program.

These flights include a variety of science instruments including RADARs, LIDARs, optical instruments and passive microwave experiments. By demonstrating these instruments can operate in an aircraft environment, increased technology readiness levels can be demonstrated, bringing the development one step closer to being mission ready. Since some airborne experiments must be compact, rugged and semi-autonomous, this forces the instrument teams to develop technologies also needed for the rigors of space operation. Airborne instruments also supply data that can be used to design the operating parameters of space instruments. They are a vital link in the development of space-based instruments by providing actual measurements of real-world phenomena. This understanding enables space instruments to be properly designed and to optimize data collection parameters.
Some of the more significant demonstration flights conducted this past year include SIMPL, TWiLiTE, and CO2 Laser Sounder.


The first science flights of the Slope Imaging Multi-polarization Photon-Counting Lidar (SIMPL) were conducted in February, 2009. SIMPL’s development was sponsored by NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) Instrument Incubator Program (IIP). The SIMPL project was selected by the IIP in response to a call for instrumentation that enabled improved elevation mapping of ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice. David Harding (Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 698) is the SIMPL Principal Investigator.
SIMPL is an advanced technology airborne laser altimeter. It incorporates beam splitting, micropulse single-photon ranging and polarimetry technologies at visible (green, 532 nm) and near-infrared (NIR, 1064 nm) wavelengths in order to achieve simultaneous sampling of surface elevation and the physical state of the surface along four parallel profiles. The deployment goals were to demonstrate the instruments measurement capabilities and document the system performance by collecting data over snow and ice targets. SIMPL was deployed on Glenn Research Center’s Lear 25 flown out of Cleveland, OH. During three flights totaling about 8 hours, data was collected over ice cover on Lake Erie and snow-covered landscapes in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Additional instrumentation included an Applanix POS-AV system provided by the NASA Airborne Science Office at Ames Research Center, collecting position and attitude data used to geolocate SIMPL’s profiles. Also deployed was nadir video to document the flight lines.
The ice cover results, providing an analog for sea ice, demonstrated the unique capabilities achieved by SIMPL. Depolarization data at both near-infrared and visible wavelengths differentiated open water leads, young translucent ice, older more granular ice and snow-covered ice, important differentiators for measuring sea ice free-board (height above water), which is an indicator of ice thickness. The high-precision single photon ranging differentiated smooth ice, roughened ice and compression ridges related to sea ice formation processes. The SIMPL demonstration of these capabilities is particularly important to the ICESat-2 mission now in formulation. ICESat-2, scheduled for a 2015 launch, will use multi-beam, micropulse single photon ranging, either at visible or near-infrared wavelengths. ICESat-2, follow-on to the ICESat mission, has a focus on monitoring changes in ice sheet elevation and sea ice freeboard. SIMPL is serving as a pathfinder for ICESat-2 technology development.
[GRAPHIC: Figure 35: SIMPL’s shared optical bench (grey) and off-axis parabola telescope (blue) maintains alignment between the transmit beams and the receiver; Figure 36: SIMPL’s receiver side; and Figure 37: SIMPL’s transmitter side.]


In September, 2009 Bruce Gentry (PI) and his team from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center completed successful integration and engineering flight testing of the Tropospheric Wind Lidar Technology Experiment (TWiLiTE) on the NASA ER-2. The TWiLiTE Doppler lidar measures vertical profiles of wind by transmitting a short laser pulse into the atmosphere, collecting the laser light scattered back to the lidar by air molecules and measuring the Doppler shifted frequency of that light. The magnitude of the Doppler shift is proportional to the wind speed of the air in the parcel scattering the laser light. TWiLiTE was developed with funding from the Earth Science Technology Office’s Instrument Incubator Program (IIP). The primary objectives of the TWiLiTE program are twofold: 1) to advance the development of key technologies and subsystems critical for a future space based Global Wind Sounding Mission, as recommended by the National Research Council in the recent Decadal Survey for Earth Science and 2) to develop, for the first time, a fully autonomous airborne Doppler wind lidar instrument to demonstrate tropospheric wind profile measurements from a high altitude downward looking, moving platform to simulate spaceborne measurements.

In February the team shipped the TWiLiTE instrument to Edwards AFB, integrated it into the NASA ER2, and conducted initial engineering test flights that demonstrated autonomous operation and key engineering functions of TWiLiTE and generated a wealth of engineering data. Detailed analysis of the data enabled the team to make the modifications necessary to correct any remaining issues. The instrument and team returned to Edwards in September for an extended round of engineering flights to further test the instrument operation. In this deployment, 25 hours of flight data were obtained and, with support from the ER-2 pilots and ground crew, a number of challenging problems were identified and addressed culminating in successful operation of the instrument. These flights validated the nadir viewing wind profiling measurement concept and provided system level validation of the key technologies. TWiLiTE is the first fully autonomous airborne Doppler wind lidar and represents an important step on the path to space.

The TWiLiTE team is funded separately by NASA HQ under the Airborne Instrument Technology Transition (AITT) program (Program Scientist: Dr. Ramesh Kakar) to reconfigure the TWiLiTE instrument to fly on the NASA DC-8. One objective of the AITT program will be to co-fly TWiLiTE with the Doppler Aerosol Wind (DAWN) lidar system currently in development by NASA Langley under the IIP program. The DAWN lidar uses a different technology to measure winds using the backscattered laser light from atmospheric aerosols. The combination of a molecular Doppler lidar (TWiLiTE) and an aerosol Doppler lidar (DAWN) represents the ‘hybrid’ approach recommended by the National Research Council in the recent Earth Science Decadal Survey as the best solution to provide space based tropospheric wind measurements. Flights of TWiLiTE and DAWN will provide the first opportunity to examine the ‘hybrid’ Doppler lidar approach experimentally. For additional information contact Bruce Gentry (
[GRAPHIC: Figure 39: TWiLiTE roll-out with Space Shuttle in background at Dryden Flight Research Center.]

CO2 Laser Sounder

During October 2008 Goddard’s CO2 Laser Sounder Team successfully demonstrated its new-pulsed airborne lidar to measure CO2 absorption. The instrument was configured to fly on the NASA Glenn Research Center’s Lear 25 aircraft. The lidar measures the optical absorption due to atmospheric CO2 in the nadir column from the aircraft to the surface. The lidar uses a pulsed fiber laser whose wavelength is scanned across the CO2 line, a 20 cm diameter receiver telescope, and time and height resolved photon counting detector and signal processing.
Initial measurements were demonstrated with the lidar scanning a CO2 line absorption near 1571 nm while flying in the vicinity of Cleveland OH. Laser backscatter and absorption measurements were over a variety of land surface types, including water surfaces and through thin clouds, broken clouds and to cloud tops. Strong laser signals were observed at altitudes from 2.5 to 11 km on two flights.
The team completed three additional airborne flight tests during December 2008. During these the team flew its CO2 Sounder lidar on the NASA-Glenn Lear-25 and gathered over 6 hours of atmospheric CO2 column line shape and depth measurements. Airborne CO2 line shape measurements were made over Ohio on several flights while flying from 3-11 km altitudes. Subsequently the team deployed to Ponca City, OK, just east of the DOE ARM site. There it made 2 flights with 4 hours of airborne measurements. The flight patterns were at altitudes from 3-8 km centered above the ARM site. The increased CO2 absorptions at higher altitudes were evident in all flights.
The flights were also coordinated with investigators at LBNL, who flew an in-situ CO2 sensor on a Cessna aircraft inside the CO2 sounder’s flight pattern. These yielded 2 profiles of CO2 from 5 km to the surface for comparisons. Data analyses showed agreement to better than 2% (6 ppm).
Goddard’s CO2 Laser Sounder Team successfully completed an extensive set of airborne measurements with its lidar instrument in summer 2009. The lidar measures the optical absorption of atmospheric CO2 in the nadir column from the aircraft to the surface by stepping a pulsed laser transmitter in wavelength across the 1572.33 nm CO2 absorption line. The time resolved laser backscatter and CO2 absorption and line shape are measured by a photon counting receiver. Several instrument improvements were made since the lidar was flown in December 2008.
The instrument was installed on the NASA Glenn Research Center’s Lear-25 aircraft in July 2009. Nine science flights were flown over Nebraska, eastern Illinois, the DOE ARM site near Lamont OK, eastern North Carolina and over the Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Each flight was just over 2 hours long and was flown with altitudes stepped from 3-13 km. The instrument worked well and CO2 line shapes and absorptions vs. altitude were measured on all flights. Data analysis is underway.
The Goddard airborne CO2 Sounder team is led by Jim Abshire (PI). The CO2 Sounder activity is a precursor for the NASA ASCENDS mission, and is supported by ASCENDS funding, and the ESTO IIP and the Goddard IRAD programs.

[GRAPHIC: Figure 40: Aircraft at ARM site; Figures 41 and 42: Pulsed airborne version of CO2 Sounder Instrument on the NASA Glenn Lear-25.]


The AESMIR 2009 test flights took place in January 2009. Installed on the P-3 flying out of WFF, the instrument operated successfully at 25,000 ft. This experiment was internally funded by Goddard Space Flight Center. The PI was Edward Kim.
AESMIR is a new passive microwave instrument. The goal of this project was to complete the first test flights of this instrument on the P-3. This was a new installation and general instrument performance checkout over ocean and land was desired. The flights took place offshore of WFF and up and down the coast. The instrument achieved successful operation at 25,000 ft. for 7 hrs. Airspeeds were up to 300KIAS and the instrument experienced temperatures as low as -30C ambient. The tests also included low-level runs at 200ft.
General plans include additional demonstration flights leading to deployment for satellite calibration/validation in the future.
[GRAPHIC: Figure 43: Picture of AESMIR installed on the P-3.]

Science Requirements and

Science and Requirements

The Science Requirements and Management program element, implemented from the Airborne Science Office at NASA Ames, provides the information and analyses to ensure that the composition of the aircraft catalog, aircraft schedules, and investments in new technologies are directly and clearly traceable to current and planned science mission requirements. In addition, the Earth Science Project Office (ESPO) provides support through requirements analysis, flight request tracking and management, and mission concept and science instrument integration development and support.

Requirements are collected and validated in partnership with the three key stakeholder groups within the earth science community:

  1. Mission scientists and managers of space flight missions in need of data for satellite calibration and algorithm validation.

  2. Engineers and developers of new instruments in need of test flight or operations.

  3. Scientists in need of airborne observations for answering science questions.

Near term requirements are gathered primarily through the online flight request system as well as inputs from mission science teams, conferences and scientific literature. The need for airborne observations related to priority SMD missions is tracked using a 5-year plan, updated annually, and by frequent communications with the NASA Earth Science Program Managers. For longer-term requirements, the program engages in a systematic process of collecting requirements from conferences, workshops, publications and interviews. Requirements gathered include platform altitude, endurance, range, and payload capacity, as well as telemetry, navigation data recorders, multidisciplinary sensors, and science-support systems.

A major effort in FY2009 concerned the formulation of the Operation Ice Bridge. The Ames team worked with Seelye Martin, then Program Manager for the Cryosphere Science Program, and the Cryosphere Science community to define areas that should be included in an airborne gap-filler campaign. The final report, “An Analysis and Summary of options for collecting ICESat-like data from aircraft through 2014”, was the basis for Operation Ice Bridge.
In support of the National Research Council Decadal Survey entitled, “Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond,” in which fifteen new satellite missions were recommended for NASA to pursue, the Airborne Science Office at Ames began the process of documenting airborne requirements for supporting all aspects of the Decadal Survey missions in development including instrument development, future calibration/validation plans, and algorithm development. This report will include an overview of the missions, airborne instruments, plans for calibration and validation, and a schedule of expected activities and assets. A first draft has been completed and the final report will be completed in mid-FY2010.

Flight Request System

The year 2009 was very productive for the Airborne Science Program Science Operations Flight Request System (SOFRS). Improvements have been made to the SOFR system to reflect additional requested changes in notifications and access. SOFRS can be accessed through the website (
There were 167 flight requests submitted in 2009. Seventy flight requests were completed, 42 were rolled over to 2010 and the rest were withdrawn or canceled depending upon the availability of resources at the time of the request. The details are listed below.
Flight requests were submitted for 15 aircraft platforms and flew more than 1800 flight hours in all. Several large campaigns were successfully conducted this year (CASIE, ASCENDS, Operation ICE Bridge etc).



Total Approved

Total Completed

Total Science Flight Hours Flown





















Twin Otter















Lear 25










Cessna 206










Global Hawk



























Flight Request entered into the system.

Total Approved:

All flight requests that have been approved.

Total Completed:

Flight requests completed in 2009.

*Some internally approved Langley B-200 and GRC Learjet 25 and T-34 flight requests were separate from the ASP FR system but the completed science hours are reflected in this summary.

Aircraft hours flown for maintenance, check flights and pilot proficiencies are not included in these totals.

The annual Airborne Science Call Letter was distributed in June of 2009. Airborne Science aircraft science flight hours are continuing to increase.

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