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NASA’s UAV completes four science flights

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NASA's unmanned Global Hawk aircraft.

SAN DIEGO (BNS): NASA's unmanned Global Hawk aircraft has completed four science flights over the Pacific Ocean under the Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) mission.

The GloPac mission project is jointly developed by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), supported by Northrop Grumman.

The four GloPac mission flights reached up to 65,000 feet to collect the information from the air as well as water and polar ice in the month of April.

In the mission, NASA’s Global Hawk has completed 82.5 flight hours, with one particular flight lasting 28.6 hours, eight hours of which was spent north of Alaska over the polar ice. The project has covered the flight range from north of the Arctic Circle, over polar ice, down to Hawaii near the equator.

The flights were designed to address several science objectives, including validation and scientific collaboration with NASA earth observation satellite (EOS) missions, principally the Aura satellite, also built by Northrop Grumman.

"Global Hawk is a revolutionary aircraft for science because of its enormous range and endurance," said Paul Newman, co-mission scientist for GloPac and an atmospheric scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md, said in a Northrop Grumman company news release.

"No other science platform provides the range and time to sample rapidly evolving atmospheric phenomena. This mission is our first opportunity to demonstrate the unique capabilities of this plane, while gathering atmospheric data in a region that is poorly sampled,” he said.

A Space Act Agreement between NASA Dryden Flight Research Center and Northrop Grumman established a partnership to re-fit and maintain two Global Hawk aircraft transferred from the U.S. Air Force.

Later this year, NASA Global Hawk will examine hurricanes and their formation process. This experiment will explore the possibility of improving hurricane forecasts.

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