Robo-plane Global Hawk Completes 11-hour Check Flight
|NASA Global Hawk No. 872 flies in restricted airspace over Edwards Air Force Base, CA. The sixth Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator built under the original Global Hawk development program sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will be used for Earth system science studies. Courtesy of NASA / Photo Carla Thomas|
A NASA Global Hawk robotic aircraft soared aloft from Edwards Air Force Base on March 11, 2010, on a long-endurance checkout flight in preparation for the Global Hawk Pacific environmental science mission — GloPac for short — this spring. The autonomously operated aircraft was aloft for almost 11 hours within the Edwards’ flight test range over Southern California’s high desert, lifting off the Edwards runway before 7:30 a.m. Pacific time and not returning until well after 6 p.m. The check flight was monitored and controlled remotely by engineers and pilots working two shifts from the Global Hawk Operations Center at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards.
The check flight was primarily oriented toward a functional checkout of aircraft systems. As a precaution, the flight was shortened by a couple of hours after an issue was identified with the aircraft navigation system, which has since been resolved. Thursday’s flight was the eighth test flight of the unmanned aircraft since NASA began flight operations.
GloPac will consist of four or five science flights that will take NASA’s Global Hawk over the Pacific Ocean and Arctic regions. The plane will carry 10 science instruments that will sample the chemical composition of stratospheric and tropospheric air and observe cloud and particle distributions in the troposphere.
The next milestone for the GloPac mission will be the first flight with all the instruments installed on the aircraft. To be flown within the Edwards test range, the next flight’s objective is to verify operation of the instruments at very high altitudes and demonstrate the functionality of the payload data telemetry system.
The research scientists who will be operating science instruments on the Global Hawk during the GloPac campaign have already arrived at NASA Dryden to install and check out their instruments.