Earth Science Advanced Aircraft

Key Investigator: Philip B. Russell

Aircraft, including NASA's ER-2s, C-130, and DC-8, have made major contributions to earth science. Many of the characteristics of aircraft measurements cannot be achieved by other techniques and are especially powerful in revealing the processes by which global change occurs. Stratospheric science, ecosystem science, biogeochemical cycles, oceanography, and geology have all benefited from the unique characteristics of aircraft.

In spite of the current fleet's success, many earth scientists have called for aircraft with still more capabilities, such as higher ceiling, longer range and/or duration, heavier payloads and/or the ability to follow the terrain (Figures 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ). In response to this need, Ames established an Earth Science Advanced Aircraft (ESAA) Team in September 1990. The major objectives of the team were to identify the best ways of applying NASA aeronautical capabilities to the earth science community's needs; to foster NASA's continuing leadership in multi-investigator earth science aircraft missions; to interact with ESAA activities at other agencies and institutions; and to develop projects to achieve the above goals.

The first project to result from ESAA Team activities is the Small High Altitude Science Aircraft (SHASA) Project to develop and test-fly the Perseus-A unmanned scientific research aircraft. Perseus A's goal is to advance stratospheric research by carrying payloads of at least 50 kg to altitudes of at least 25 km. (Corresponding ER-2 capabilities are 1400 kg and 21 km.) A Perseus proof-of-concept aircraft completed low-altitude test flights in November 1991. High-altitude test flights were conducted in 1993.

The ESAA Team has also hosted workshops to better define the earth science community's aircraft needs, simulated existing and conceptual aircraft performance, established a university course to design a terrain-following aircraft, made presentations to other earth-science and remote-sensing agencies and groups, and coordinated the development and integration of instruments and a common data system for Perseus A. Future activities include developing telescience techniques and using the pioneering aeronautical achievements of Perseus as a steppingstone to more capable earth science advanced aircraft.

RESEARCH SITES: Moffett Field; Edwards Air Force Base

COLLABORATORS: Dryden Flight Research Facility

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