NASA debuts Global Hawk autonomous aircraft

WASHINGTON, 17 Jan. 2009. NASA and Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles unveiled the first Global Hawk 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, says a representative.

Jan 17th, 2009

WASHINGTON, 17 Jan. 2009. NASA and Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles unveiled the first Global Hawk 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, says a representative.

The vehicle debuted this week 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 capability.

"Today marks the debut of NASA's newest airborne science capability," says 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, says a representative.

NASA's initial use of the aircraft to support Earth science will be the Global Hawk Pacific 2009 program, consisting 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 lower stratosphere.

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