Equipped with several sensors including a side-mounted diode laser hygrometer, the Global Hawk undergoes gear swing tests prior to the start of research flights. Guy Norris/AW&ST

NASA Test Fleet Mobilized For Climate Projects

By Guy Norris
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
January 28, 2013

Guy Norris Edwards AFB and Palmdale, Calif

Remote-sensing satellites have become indispensable tools for weather forecasting and resource monitoring and, given the right set of instruments, researchers believe future spacecraft could also dramatically improve the understanding of climate change and air pollution.

That is the aim of Earth science researchers involved in three parallel missions underway at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. From that site an unprecedented fleet of test aircraft is fanning out to explore the atmosphere from as low as 100 ft. to the edge of the stratosphere. The missions, two over California and one over the Pacific Ocean, are focused on testing new or improved sensors as well as gathering atmospheric data that will help guide the final selection of systems for future satellites.

Two turboprop-powered aircraft, NASA’s Lockheed P-3B and Beechcraft 200 King Air, are flying in a coordinated mission as part of the Discover-AQ campaign. Otherwise known as the Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality, the effort is aimed at improving the ability of satellites to consistently observe air quality in the lowest levels of the atmosphere. The goal is to collect data from a variety of altitudes, including measurements from ground-based monitoring sites, and compare them to help design space-based instruments which will be able to distinguish between pollution found high in the atmosphere and closer to ground level.

Read more: NASA Test Fleet Mobilized For Climate Projects — Aviation Week & Space Technology.

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