Science casts

Number Won 2015. 7. 31. 20:30

July 27, 2015

The Next Era of Aviation: Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management Convention

In this image, an unmanned aircraft system is operated in Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California during Coastal Trident 2015 field experimentation and exercise activities. The exercises included a demonstration of UTM concepts.

Credits: NASA

An InstantEye unmanned aircraft system is operated in Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California during Coastal Trident 2015 field experimentation and exercise activities.

Credits: NASA Ames/Eric James

“The sky could become increasingly crowded as personal and commercial uses of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly called drones, become more popular.” That’s the assessment of Parimal Kopardekar, manager of NASA’s Safe Autonomous Systems Operations project, as innovators constantly conceive new beneficial applications for these aircraft, including goods delivery, infrastructure inspection, search and rescue, and agricultural monitoring.

To address the growth of this quickly evolving technology, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recognize that a UAS traffic management (UTM) system for low-altitude airspace is needed. Last year, NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley released an open a call to invite government, industry and academic partners to collaborate with NASA to conduct and identify research needs and to accelerate the development of such a system. 

This week, July 28-30, NASA is hosting a three-day UTM Convention to bring together a broad domestic and international audience of government and civilian representatives, industry and academia, aviation, agriculture, film and other industries, to understand and define the UAS impact and challenges ahead. 

Follow the conversation online with #UTM2015.

Digital press kit

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Jessica Culler

Tags:  Aeronautics, Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center,

Aeronautics

July 20, 2015

NASA, Partners Test Engine Health Monitoring System

Most people are careful to maintain their cars and keep the engine clean and out of the repair shop. However, this week a joint NASA, government and industry project team seeks to purposely feed volcanic ash into an engine to create problems.

Oil smoke billows from the right inboard engine of the C-17, while a probe collects emissions data, one of numerous tests conducted during engine health monitoring tests that resume this week when ash will be fed into an engine.

Credits: NASA Photo / Tony Landis

That's one way to see if a new engine health monitoring system can detect failures before they happen. If the tests are successful, the system capable of predicting engine challenges and improving fuel economy could become available for the next generation of commercial airline engines.

A July 9 panel discussion at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, California, detailed the Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research (VIPR) project. The concept is to test and evaluate a system that incorporates smart sensors and advanced diagnostic techniques. Speakers included Paul Krasa, VIPR project manager, John Lekki, VIPR principal investigator, Jack Hoying, U.S. Air Force volcanic ash environment principal investigator and Cheng Moua, Armstrong VIPR project manager.

"The ash will degrade the engine and allow us to see in real time what's happening and how well the health monitoring system works," said Lekki, who is based at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Volcanic ash was chosen for the final of a three-phase research project because atmospheric particulates have become of interest to military and civil aviation authorities that have to assess the airworthiness of engines that have encountered the ash. Eruptions in Iceland over the last five years, especially in 2010, disrupted air traffic worldwide and cost airline companies more than $1 billion due to cancelled or rerouted flights. The new sensors are expected to detect the degradation caused by the volcanic ash, quantify the significance of the event, and aid in identifying which components might require maintenance.

The Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base provides the C-17 military transport and NASA Armstrong contributes two F-117 engines for this research. The engines are a variant of an engine used in a Boeing Company commercial aircraft.

The Air Force provided a C-17 Globemaster III for use in the Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research effort. Researchers are using the airplane for ground testing of new engine health monitoring technologies.

Credits: NASA Photo / Tony Landis

A rig called the spider will blow the ash into the engine for the tests. Researchers hope to gain a better understanding of how ash degrades an engine using the new system to observe low levels of ash blowing into the engine that can't be seen with the human eye and then feeding the power plant more moderate levels of ash with particulates that can be seen.

The engine health monitoring system's sensors also will measure emissions and combustion and can detect the effect of the ash on the engine in real time and research the prognostic capabilities that could predict how long it will take for an issue to emerge, Lekki said.

The sensors include a sensor that evolved from one that was used for the space shuttle main engines, high-temperature fiber optics, high-temperature thin film sensors and acoustic microphone arrays. Also included is a microwave tip clearance sensor developed through the Small Business Innovative Research program that measures the complex gap from the outer wall of the turbine to the tips of the blades, he explained.

"Compressor blade erosion and turbine ash deposits are what is damaging the engine," added Hoying, who is based at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. "The tests can answer questions about how close we can fly to these volcanic plumes."

After the tests are over, the investigation will continue as the research engine is taken apart and evaluated, Moua added.

A panel of experts explained the Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research project that is testing a new engine health monitoring system that could estimate potential challenges and alert maintenance crews to check it out. Speakers included, from left, Paul Krasa, John Lekki, Jack Hoying and Cheng Moua.

Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

Improved sensors also could identify changes in vibration, speed, temperature and emissions that are symptomatic of engine problems before they become serious safety concerns. Notifications would be provided to ground crews of potential problems that could be fixed by preventive maintenance or alert pilots to changes in engine health thereby allowing time to prevent engine damage in flight.

To reduce risk, all such testing is conducted on the ground under controlled conditions.

The VIPR project began in 2011 with a baseline test to lay the groundwork for more complex experiments. The engine detected simulated faults, including an oil leak. A second test in early 2013 verified that sensors could detect actuator faults over a range of operating conditions.

"It will be a huge benefit economically and provide new diagnostic technologies to foster engine innovation in reliability," Lekki said.

In addition to the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA's partners on the project include Boeing Research & Technology, Pratt & Whitney, General Electric Aviation and Rolls-Royce Liberty Works, with assistance from the U.S. Geological Survey. Researchers from four NASA aeronautics centers – Armstrong, Glenn, Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia and Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California – are involved in research and testing.

Jay Levine, X-Press Editor
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Aeronautics, Armstrong Flight Research Center, Benefits to You, Langley Research Center,

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Aeronautics

June 29, 2015

NASA, Air Force, and Industry Team Up to Improve Flying Safety

The Air Force provided a C-17 Globemaster III for use in the Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research (VIPR) effort. Researchers are using the airplane for ground testing of new engine health monitoring technologies.

Credits: NASA Photo / Tony Landis

This summer, researchers from NASA's Transformational Aeronautics Concepts Program, Convergent Aeronautics Solutions Project, are entering the third and final phase of the Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research (VIPR) effort to test and evaluate new engine health management technologies. This research incorporates smart sensors and advanced diagnostic techniques designed to improve safety and reduce costs.

Improved sensors could identify changes in vibration, speed, temperature and emissions that are symptomatic of engine problems before they become serious safety concerns. Displays would then notify ground crews of potential problems that could be fixed by preventive maintenance or alert pilots to changes in engine health thereby allowing time to prevent engine damage in flight.

Over the past several years VIPR researchers have conducted experiments that introduced foreign material – liquids and particulates – into a high-bypass turbofan engine and simulated engine faults to test the effectiveness of the new sensors. To reduce risk, all such testing is conducted on the ground under controlled conditions.

Oil smoke billows from the right inboard engine of the C-17 while a probe collects emissions data, one of numerous tests conducted during Phase I of VIPR engine health monitoring tests.

Credits: NASA Photo / Tony Landis

NASA is partnering with Air Force Research Laboratory, Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing Research & Technology, Pratt and Whitney, General Electric Aviation and Rolls-Royce Liberty Works, with assistance from the U.S. Geological Survey. Researchers from four NASA centers – Armstrong, Glenn, Langley, and Ames – are involved in various aspects of research and testing. The Air Force provided a C-17 cargo transport plane and two F117 engines – military versions of the commercial PW2037 used on the Boeing 757.

In December 2011, during a baseline test to lay the groundwork for more complex experiments, the engine detected simulated faults, including an oil leak. A second test in early 2013 verified that sensors could detect actuator faults over a range of operating conditions. In July, researchers will introduce increasing amounts of simulated volcanic ash into the engine to assess how early the health monitoring sensors and their associated software can detect and report a problem.

Atmospheric particulates have become a matter of great interest to military and civil aviation authorities that have to assess the airworthiness of engines that have encountered volcanic ash. Eruptions in Iceland over the last five years, especially in 2010, disrupted air traffic worldwide and cost airline companies more than a billion dollars due to cancelled or rerouted flights. This resulted in renewed interest in being able to detect volcanic ash plumes with particles too small for human eyes to see. Ultimately, the new sensors should detect aircraft volcanic ash cloud encounters, quantify the significance of the event, and aid in identifying which components might require maintenance.

Peter Merlin, Public Affairs
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Aeronautics, Armstrong Flight Research Center,

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Aeronautics

April 1, 2015

100 Years: NACA Breakthroughs Led to NASA’s Accomplishments

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, was established in March 1915 as a federal agency to “direct and conduct research and experimentation in aeronautics … to their practical solution.” Its creation reflected the nation’s waning aeronautical influence in the world, something made especially clear by World War I, which began in 1914: it frustrated many to see the land of the Wrights lose its leadership role.

The NACA facilities are seen as they originally appeared on South Base.

Credits: NACA ? NASA Photo

The NACA (the individual letters are pronounced, unlike its successor agency’s acronym) began with one center in 1917, the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia. To this was added the Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale, California, in 1940, and the Aircraft Engine Research Center in Cleveland in 1941 (which soon became the Lewis Research Center and today is the NASA Glenn Research Center). In 1945 Langley began operating a small facility on the Atlantic coast known as the Pilotless Aircraft Research Station on Wallops Island, Virginia, and another facility, referred to as the Muroc Unit, California, in 1946. The Muroc Unit eventually became independent and is now called the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. All but Wallops and Muroc were created as wartime centers and not expected to last beyond hostilities.

With inspired engineers, a small fleet of aircraft and a growing collection of unique wind tunnels, the NACA developed a reputation for extraordinary research, the results of which were usually widely distributed. That research had an extraordinary impact on the nation’s – and the world’s – aeronautical development. The results manifested themselves in many ways: much greater flight safety, jumps in airliner efficiency and reliability, higher aircraft speeds, and ever better design tools, to list but a few.

Beyond the aeronautical results, the NACA developed a reputation as a model federal agency, celebrated for its effectiveness. Vannevar Bush, vice president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and dean of MIT’s school of engineering, also was a science advisor to U.S. presidents and the director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II. Bush was so impressed with the agency’s effectiveness that he patterned the National Defense Research Council directly on the NACA and he sought to do so with the National Science Foundation.

The X-15 No. 2 was launched from the NASA’s B-52B and its rocket engine ignited. The X-15 is considered one of the most successful research programs, which included 199 flights.

Credits: NASA Photo

The NACA had many firsts during its existence, only some of which were recognized by awards. From the beginning the committee studied compressibility issues on propeller tips, putting the NACA in the forefront of the subject for decades. Not surprisingly, in 1934 its researchers produced the first visual evidence of shock patterns on a wing at “critical [Mach] speed” using schlieren photography. Also in its first decade the agency became a leader in aviation safety and accident investigation, and some of its engineers went on to develop a spin and stall-proof experimental aircraft in an attempt to demonstrate the potential to industry.

Between 1915 and 1958 the NACA published more than 16,000 reports for public use regarding aeronautical design, research, safety, and development. In that time it won outright or shared in five Collier Trophies, an award established in 1911 and presented “for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.”

In 1958, and in direct response to another international event – the Soviet launch of Sputnik I and II – President Dwight D. Eisenhower reorganized the NACA and renamed it the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. Despite a focus on space, the agency has continued its aeronautical work, yielding benefits to the nation and the world.

The X-43A streaks across the sky following its release from a NASA B-52B and subsequent air launch from an Orbital Sciences rocket.

Credits: NASA Photo / Jim Ross

The benefits have included fundamental research on swept wings so critical to high-speed flight, solving deadly problems resulting from the combination of new aircraft planforms and jet engines, exploring variable incidence wings and conducting the first human piloted hypersonic flight. Also included were exploring entirely new re-entry shapes to change access to space, developing the foundation for modern remotely piloted aircraft and introducing entirely new flight control methods and testing.

NASA also was responsible for evaluating new safety systems for passenger travel and military aircraft, developing the very first self-repairing flight control systems in aircraft, developing and bringing to practical use new, lightweight instrumentation systems and much more. Since NASA’s founding in 1958 it has won outright or shared in 12 Collier Trophies.

One hundred years and counting the NACA’s legacy is alive and well: NASA is with you when you fly.

This article is the introduction to the NACA X-Press publication at: http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/NACA_100_X-Press.pdf

Christian Gelzer
Chief Historian at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
Jacobs Technology

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Aeronautics, Armstrong Flight Research Center, NACA, NASA History,

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NASA Armstrong

March 17, 2015

LEAPTech to Demonstrate Electric Propulsion Technologies

Technicians unload the LEAPTech experimental wing upon its arrival at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. Ground testing will begin after the wing is mounted on a specially modified truck.

Credits: NASA Photo / Tom Tschida

Mounted on a specially modified truck he LEAPTech ground-test article, or Hybrid-Electric Integrated Systems Testbed, will be driven at speeds up to 70 miles per hour across a dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base. Last December, it underwent preliminary testing at Oceano, California.

Credits: Joby Aviation

Within a few years NASA hopes to fly a piloted X-plane, replacing the wings and engines of a Tecnam P2006T with an improved version of the LEAPTech wing. Using an existing airframe will allow engineers to compare the performance of the flight demonstrator with that of the original P2006T.

Credits: NASA Graphic

The arrival of a unique experimental demonstrator at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center on February 26 may herald a future in which many aircraft are powered by electric motors. The Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology (LEAPTech) project will test the premise that tighter propulsion-airframe integration, made possible with electric power, will deliver improved efficiency and safety, as well as environmental and economic benefits. Over the next several months, NASA researchers will perform ground testing of a 31-foot-span, carbon composite wing section with 18 electric motors powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries.

The experimental wing, called the Hybrid-Electric Integrated Systems Testbed (HEIST), is mounted on a specially modified truck. Testing on the mobile ground rig assembly will provide valuable data and risk reduction applicable to future flight research. Instead of being installed in a wind tunnel, the HEIST wing section will remain attached to load cells on a supporting truss while the vehicle is driven at speeds up to 70 miles per hour across a dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base. Preliminary testing, up to 40 mph, took place in January at Oceano County Airport on California’s Central Coast.

The LEAPTech project began in 2014 when researchers from NASA Langley Research Center and Armstrong partnered with two California companies, Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) in Pismo Beach and Joby Aviation in Santa Cruz. ESAero is the prime contractor for HEIST responsible for system integration and instrumentation, while Joby is responsible for design and manufacture of the electric motors, propellers, and carbon fiber wing section.

The truck experiment is a precursor to a development of a small X-plane demonstrator proposed under NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts program. Researchers hope to fly a piloted X-plane within the next couple years after removing the wings and engines from an Italian-built Tecnam P2006T and replacing them with an improved version of the LEAPTech wing and motors. Using an existing airframe will allow engineers to easily compare the performance of the X-plane with the original P2006T.

Each motor can be operated independently at different speeds for optimized performance. Key potential benefits of LEAPTech include decreased reliance on fossil fuels, improved aircraft performance and ride quality, and aircraft noise reduction.

LEAPTech is a key element of NASA’s plan to help a significant portion of the aircraft industry transition to electrical propulsion within the next decade. According to Mark Moore, an aerodynamicist at Langley, “LEAPTech has the potential to achieve transformational capabilities in the near-term for general aviation aircraft, as well as for transport aircraft in the longer-term.”

Peter Merlin, Public Affairs
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Aeronautics, Armstrong Flight Research Center, Green Aviation,

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NASA Armstrong

March 12, 2015

Shape-changing Flap Project Meets First Milestone

The ACTE project is a joint effort between NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to explore technologies that will significantly reduce drag, structural weight, and aircraft noise.

Credits: NASA Photo / Jim Ross

The Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) project achieved a major milestone at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center on February 18, when the modified Gulfstream G-III completed a flight with 15 degrees flap deflection, thus successfully meeting all of the project’s primary requirements. Flight tests have been performed with deflections ranging from zero to 15 degrees, with plans for flights up to 30 degrees of deflection. Although the flexible ACTE flaps are designed to morph throughout the entire range of motion, each test is being conducted at a single fixed setting in order to collect incremental data with a minimum of risk.

The ACTE project is a joint effort between NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to advance compliant structure technology for use in aircraft to significantly reduce drag, structural weight, and aircraft noise. It is part of NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project to explore and document the feasibility, benefits and technical risk of vehicle concepts and enabling technologies for reducing aviation’s impact on the environment.

Last year, researchers replaced the G-III’s conventional aluminum flaps with advanced, shape-changing assemblies that form seamless bendable and twistable surfaces. The revolutionary flaps were designed and built by FlexSys, Inc., of Ann Arbor, Michigan, with AFRL funding based on FlexSys patented technology.

"Reaching our minimum success criteria for the ACTE Integrated Technology Demonstration is a testament to the exceptional cooperation and collaboration toward the success of this flight campaign between NASA, AFRL and FlexSys, the inventor of the technology," said Ed Waggoner, Integrated Aviation Systems Program Director in NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. “Every milestone we achieve helps us to better understand how these enabling technologies reduce aviation’s impact on the environment.”

ACTE technology has the potential to be retrofitted to existing airplane wings or integrated into entirely new airframes. ACTE enables engineers to reduce wing structural weight and to aerodynamically tailor the wings throughout the flight envelope to promote improved fuel economy and more efficient operations, while reducing environmental and noise impacts. Flight testing at Armstrong is key to proving the concept's airworthiness.

Peter Merlin, Public Affairs
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Aeronautics, Armstrong Flight Research Center, Future Aircraft,

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NASA Armstrong

March 6, 2015

15-03

NASA’s Airborne Science Mission Returns to the Skies for Final Flights

NASA’s Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX) returned to the skies for its fifth and final year of science flights on March 4. The remotely piloted Global Hawk research aircraft took off from its base at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, to track the transport of water vapor into the upper atmosphere and help researchers understand how greenhouse gases affect Earth’s climate.

This year, NASA ATTREX is collaborating with United Kingdom (UK) researchers to execute their Coordinated Airborne Studies in the Tropics (CAST) project, funded by their country’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The mission continues to focus on the transport and exchange of greenhouse gases, in particular water vapor, in the tropical tropopause region, the transition layer between the troposphere, the lowest part of the atmosphere, and the stratosphere, the layer above it. The suite of instruments onboard includes a subset of the ATTREX payload previously flown, with a focus on cloud and water vapor measurements.  In addition, two new CAST instruments will be included: the Aerosol Ice Interface Transition Spectrometer (AIITS) and the GreenHouse gas Observations in the Stratosphere and Troposphere (GHOST).

“The combination of ATTREX and CAST instruments will provide new information about the formation of tropical tropopause layer cirrus and the shapes of the ice crystals that comprise them,” said Eric Jensen, the ATTREX principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. “The cirrus ice crystal sizes and shapes determine how fast they fall and remove water vapor from air rising into the stratosphere.  The measurements made in this flight series will add to the extensive ATTREX dataset that is being used to improve our understanding of tropical tropopause layer transport and cloud processes. The science community is using this dataset to evaluate and improve global models used to predict future climate change.”

Studies show that even slight changes in the amount of water vapor in the stratosphere can warm the surface temperature by absorbing thermal radiation rising from the surface.

Neil Humpage, an investigator from University of Leicester, services the GHOST instrument with cryogenic liquid to keep it cool and functioning properly during flight.

Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulrich

Scientists consider the tropical tropopause to be the gateway for transport of water vapor, ozone and other gases into the stratosphere. For this mission, the Global Hawk will fly in the tropical tropopause layer (from altitudes of 45,000 to 60,000 feet) near the equator over the Pacific Ocean, providing measurements in this critical atmospheric layer.

AIITS was jointly developed by UK’s Universities of Hertfordshire and Manchester. It will measure the scattering properties of aerosols and cirrus clouds, providing information about particle shapes and composition. Scientists expect these measurements, combined with those from the ATTREX Hawkeye, a cloud particle probe managed by Stratton Park Engineering (SPEC), Inc., Boulder, Colo., and water vapor instruments, will provide valuable new information about the formation and impact of extensive, thin cirrus clouds in the tropical tropopause layer.

GHOST was jointly developed by the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh and the Universities of Edinburgh and Leicester. It will measure columns of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, and water, below the aircraft’s path. It is a novel, compact Short-Wave InfraRed (SWIR) spectrometer built on similar principles to the instrument aboard the NASA Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2 satellite launched in 2014, and will provide high spatial-resolution information about these gases as well as validation for the satellite instrument.

ATTREX will conduct three long-duration science flights totaling 66 hours, averaging more than 22 hours per flight. This year’s flights bring the total hours flown in support of ATTREX to about 390 hours since 2011.

Jensen and Project Manager Dave Jordan of Ames have led the ATTREX mission. Investigators include four NASA facilities: Ames, Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The team also includes investigators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Miami, Florida, the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and private industry.  The project is managed by the NASA Ames Earth Science Project Office.

ATTREX is one of the first research missions of NASA’s new Earth Venture project. These targeted science investigations complement NASA’s research satellite missions. The Earth Venture missions are part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program managed by Langley.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities in 2015, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

For more information about NASA Ames Earth Science Project Office, visit:

http://nasa.gov/ames

Kate Squires
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
(661) 276-2020
kate.k.squires@nasa.gov

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center, ATTREX (Airbore Tropical TRopopause Experiment),

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March 4, 2015

100 Years of Atmospheric Research Continues with Current Employees

This 1953 photo shows the D-558-II Skyrocket and two P2B-1S launch aircraft with research pilot Scott Crossfield standing in front.

Credits: NASA Photo

National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' (NACA) research made fundamental contributions to the worldwide development of aviation crucial to the victory in World War II and to security during the Cold War.

Post-World War II, NACA research laid the basis for the space age. Just as the NACA did in 1915, NASA today finds solutions to challenges facing the aerospace community that help the nation reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.

The legacy of the NACA lives on at NASA.

·         How we work – in partnership with industry and the world.

·         What we do – researching practical solutions at the cutting edge of technology.

·         Who we hire – inquisitive, inspired, and devoted people

Every U.S. aircraft and U.S. air traffic control tower has NASA-developed technology on board. NASA is with you when you fly. http://www.nasa.gov/naca100

In Armstrong's science building in Palmdale, Calif., the staff joins the 100-year celebration of NACA as the current employees of NASA.

Credits: NASA Photo / Tom Tschida

Learn more about Building 703 in Palmdale.

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Aeronautics, Armstrong Flight Research Center,

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SOFIA

Feb. 25, 2015

NASA Educator Professional Development Program Will Fly Again in 2015

 Working to expand professional development opportunities for science educators across the United States, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy program, known as SOFIA, has selected 14 two-person teams for its 2015 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors.

The flying observatory is a highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner carrying a 100-inch (2.5-meter) effective diameter telescope. Fitted with instruments that collect data at infrared wavelengths, SOFIA flies at altitudes between 39,000 and 45,000 feet (12-14 kilometers) on 10-hour overnight science missions.

Each educator team will complete a graduate credit astronomy course and then will be paired with a team of professional astronomers conducting science flights aboard SOFIA. After their flight experiences, ambassadors take what they've learned from the program into their classroom and communities to relate the scientific discovery process and its value to society.

"The Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program gives science educators a unique opportunity to interact with all facets of a NASA science mission," said John Gagosian, SOFIA Program Executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Not only are these educators witnessing scientific research first-hand, they're seeing the wide range of professional and technical expertise needed to support that research, from engineering to technology to mathematics. This program shows educators the excitement of frontier science, and it shows students the multitude of career paths within NASA's programs."

The 28 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors selected for 2015 come from 12 states plus the District of Columbia. Six of the states (Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Oklahoma) as well as the District of Columbia are new to the program.

Educators selected for the 2015 cohort of this highly competitive, professional development program are:

·         Adrienne Hestenes and Janet Mambrino, Xavier College Preparatory High School, Phoenix, Arizona

·         Richard Krueger, Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, and Samantha Thompson, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona

·         Kevin Tambara, Bert Lynn Middle School, Torrance, California, and Sandra Trevino, Air Force Association/Girls Scouts, Sierra Vista, Arizona

·         Dan Burns, Los Gatos High School, and David Marasco, Foothill College, Los Altos, California

·         Monique Perez and Jeri Sloane, Palmdale Learning Plaza, Palmdale, California

·         Susan Oltman, Kittredge Magnet School, and April Whitt, Fernbank Science Center, Atlanta, Georgia

·         Kevin McCarron, Oak Park and River Forest High School, Oak Park, Illinois, and Chuck Ruehle, Astronomers Without Borders, Racine, Wisconsin

·         Troy Cockrum, St. Therese Little Flower Catholic School, and Jeff Peterson, Center Grove Middle School North, Indianapolis, Indiana

·         Brian Gonyar and Lauree Gott, Veazie Community School, Veazie, Maine

·         Howard Fain and Stacy Lord, Worcester East Middle School, Worcester, Massachusetts

·         Virginia (Ginger) DeVillers, West Michigan Flight Academy, Jenison, Michigan, and Lisa Wininger, Plainwell Middle School, Plainwell, Michigan

·         Jeffery Killebrew, New Mexico School for the Blind, and Michael Shinabery, New Mexico Museum of Space History, Alamogordo, New Mexico

·         Melissa Aguirre, JHS 217 Robert A. Van Wyck School, Jamaica, New York, and Jacqueline Fernandez-Romero, The Latin American Youth Center Career Academy, Washington, D.C.

·         David Davisson, Longfellow Middle School, and Eileen Grzybowski, Norman North High School, Norman, Oklahoma

The 2015 group of Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors joins 55 educators from 23 states who have participated in the program during the past four years.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The observatory is based at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center's facility in Palmdale, California, and NASA's Ames Research Center is home to the SOFIA Science Center, which is managed in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. SOFIA's education and public outreach programs are managed by the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in San Francisco.

For images of the selected educators, visit: 
http://www.sofia.usra.edu/News/news_2015/02_26_15/index.html

For more information about SOFIA, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/sofia • http://www.dlr.de/en/sofia

For information about SOFIA's science mission and scientific instruments, visit:
http://www.sofia.usra.edu • http://www.dsi.uni-stuttgart.de/index.en.html

Nicholas A. Veronico
SOFIA Science Center, Moffett Field, California 
650-604-4589 / 650-224-8726-cell
nicholas.a.veronico@nasa.gov / nveronico@sofia.usra.edu

Kate K. Squires
Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California 
661-276-2020 
kate.k.squires@nasa.gov

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Jessica Culler

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center, SOFIA,

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Dec. 2, 2014

NASA Aeronautics Contributes to Orion’s Atmospheric Flight Capability

A stellar pedigree: this same facility used for aeronautics and Orion research was also used for Apollo testing during the Apollo program.

Credits: NASA Langley / Kathy Barnstorff

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An F/A-18 research jet simulated flight conditions that NASA's Space Launch System may experience as it makes its way from the launch pad to space in order to evaluate the rocket's flight control system.

Credits: NASA / Jim Ross

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The round trip to space begins and ends with a journey through Earth’s atmosphere, and NASA’s Orion spacecraft is no exception.

Weather permitting, a NASA unmanned aircraft system flown by an Armstrong research pilot will be used to provide video of Orion as it approaches splashdown.

Credits: NASA / Carla Thomas

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Targeted for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday, Orion’s first flight is expected to validate years of studies and tests conducted within NASA’s wind tunnels and aeronautical laboratories across the nation.

In this historical photo, former NACA staff Robert F. Thompson (center) and Christopher C. Kraft Jr. (right) brief Rear Admiral W.C. Abhau on Gemini recovery operations similar to those to be used decades later for Orion.

Credits: NASA

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During its four-and-a-half-hour mission, the uncrewed Orion capsule is expected to complete two Earth orbits – reaching a top altitude of 3,600 miles – then re-enter and splash down in the Pacific Ocean, where it will be recovered.

Orion’s climb across and fall through the sky should go more smoothly thanks to NASA’s aeronautical innovators.

Each of NASA’s four traditional aeronautical research centers – Langley Research Center in Virginia, Glenn Research Center in Ohio, and Ames Research Center and Armstrong Flight Research Center in California – have contributed to Orion’s development using knowledge and test facilities also often used to test aircraft structures and components.

Among the many contributions from these NASA centers:

·         Development of Orion’s launch abort system, including testing of scale models of the Orion capsule in wind tunnels at Langley, Glenn and Ames, as well as full-size capsule flight tests led by Armstrong in New Mexico.

·         Tests that required repeated drops of an 18,000 pound Orion mock-up into a giant pool at Langley to measure splashdown stresses (additional tests with a higher fidelity model equipped with a heat shield are planned for 2016).

·         Flight tests out of Armstrong using NASA research aircraft to safely and economically test and re-test auto-pilot systems to be used on the Space Launch System.

·         Critical documentation of capsule parachute assembly system drops in Yuma, Arizona, as captured by Armstrong videographers and photographers from the center's fleet of aircraft.

·         Characterization of the thermal protection systems’ (TPS) capabilities, including tests of heat shield materials exposed to high temperatures using Ames’ arc jet facility; Ames researchers also will be on hand at splashdown to assist with post-flight inspections of the heatshield and TPS.

·         Upcoming testing to measure Orion’s resilience to vibrations experienced during launch atop the Space Launch System rocket using a 55,000-pound vibration-simulating table at Glenn’s Space Power Facility in Ohio.

·         Video coverage of the Orion splashdown using a NASA unmanned aircraft system flown by a pilot from Armstrong.

Aeronautics contributions to spaceflight actually can be traced to an organization founded nearly 100 years ago.

NASA's ability to develop vehicles that travel to space and return to Earth has its foundation in the people and aeronautical know-how of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, which was founded on March 3, 1915. When the NACA became NASA in 1958, many of its brightest minds immediately took over top spots in the nation's effort to land a man on the moon.

They included NACA staff member Robert F. Thompson, who became the chief of recovery operations in the early '60s to lead recoveries for Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules. The legacy and spirit of that work will be in full view during Orion's splashdown and recovery phase.

Jim Banke
NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Lillian Gipson

Tags:  Aeronautics, Ames Research Center, Journey to Mars, NASA History, Orion Spacecraft,

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Oct. 23, 2014

NASA Armstrong's Flight Loads Lab at 50:

Ready for the Future, Respectful of its History

The Flight Loads Laboratory at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center is celebrating a half-century of technological innovation and achievement in October 2014.

Established in 1964 when it became clear that special facilities would be needed to test the latest in aerospace technology, it was first known as the High Temperature Loads Calibration Laboratory at a time the center was named the NASA Flight Research Center. The X-15 rocket plane and the triple-sonic YF-12 and SR-71 Blackbirds rocketed the lab into existence, but today's research projects keep it on the edge of technology.

In particular, the X-15 required aero-thermo-structural testing related to hypersonic flight that presented new challenges. When the experimental rocket plane began flying, the center established the heat facility in an earlier iteration, located in a corner of the Loads Calibration Hangar, or what today is known as Hangar 4801.

X-15 No. 3 is prepared for a loads calibration test of its horizontal stabilizer.

Credits: NASA

That facility was insufficient to meet the demands of the X-15 that flew at hypersonic speeds, which generated extraordinary temperatures, dynamic loads and mechanical stresses. A stand-alone facility had to be established to meet the new requirements and challenges that arose from this unforgiving region of flight.

Since then, the lab’s work is at times mesmerizing, like the warm glow of extreme heating tests, or research into the ultimate limits of a wing’s strength. Each test is conducted to add to the aeronautical modeling databases, validate aircraft and spacecraft parts and structures and verify that conclusions derived from past research apply as expected and in a manner that reduces risk to the research aircraft and the pilots who fly them.

An example is the loads calibration and thermal testing work in the 1970's that required the entire airframe of the YF-12 to be tested at the same temperatures it encountered in flight at Mach 3. The spectacular glow was one of many aspects of the research that resulted in enhanced flight safety.

The laboratory’s experience with hypersonic and supersonic test and calibration led to work on another of NASA’s mainstay programs – the space shuttles. Study was needed on the shuttle’s elevon seals and convective heating that occurred during re-entry. The validation and verification work completed at the lab provided recommendations and confidence that the seals would be effective when it mattered most and added to mission safety and success.

The laboratory’s greatest asset – its people – came into focus again with the arrival of the Hypersonic Wing Test Structure in the 1980's. That research required the laboratory to test a hot structure wing concept consisting of tubular panels made of Rene 41 alloy to 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit while loaded.

The loads lab again had a critical role during the National Aero-Space Plane, or NASP, program. The laboratory performed the first combined heating and loading tests of Titanium Matrix Composites, or TMC, structural panels for the X-30. While the X-30 wasn’t built, the information gathered through the work at NASA Armstrong's Flight Loads Laboratory provided the tools for designers of the future to develop such a vehicle.

The laboratory’s research can have implications for the future, but sometimes it can just help solve a new challenge. An example is loads calibration tests on the F-15 Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicles, or ACTIVE, engine mounts.

The tests provided the first successful measurement of engine thrust with instrumented engine mount links. A vectored thrust loads measurement was not originally included in the project plan, but was added when it became clear that it was needed. As a result, aerostructures engineer Bob Sims found a successful way to measure the vectored thrust loads that assured a successful flight program.

Many times projects in the lab set high water marks for loads tests. The Active Aeroelastic Wing (AAW) F/A-18 – also known as the X-53 – set several lab records during its strain gauge load calibration test.  First, the peak load was the largest ever applied to any aircraft in the lab. The equivalent of a 5-G flight load – five times the force of gravity – was applied to the aircraft, the equivalent of lifting five F/A-18s off of the floor.

This is how the NASA Armstrong's Flight Loads Laboratory appeared in 1997. The significant changes since then have occurred inside the facility.

Credits: NASA / Carla Thomas

A wide variety of load distributions were applied to this aircraft – 68 load sets in total – simulating a large portion of the flight load envelope. To do this, test hardware was employed that could simultaneously apply load through 32 independent load zones into a total of 102 bonded load pads using whiffle trees. A whiffle tree is a load distribution linkage assembly that connects multiple load pads to a single hydraulic cylinder. The aircraft data recorded during this test included 200 strain gauge channels. The AAW strain gauge load calibration test was the most extensive room temperature load calibration test performed on an aircraft in the lab.

The tests were key to the aircraft taking flight. The series of test flights validated that wing warping, or wing twist, could be used for roll control of an aircraft. The concepts originated with the Wright brothers, who employed wing twist to control their first flyer.

Between 2001 and 2004 the laboratory performed the first thermal-mechanical qualification test of a flight-designed carbon-carbon hot-structure control surface, a flaperon, for use on the X-37 space plane. That research involved extensive use of high-temperature fiber-optic strain sensors. The lab has been directly involved with expanding the use of fiber-optic strain sensing technology to the testing of high-temperature composite structures and enabling the understanding of structural performance in relevant high-temperature environments. It was during this test period that the lab expanded its high-temperature limit to beyond 2,500 degrees F.

Loads lab staff members have their vision set on keeping atop the latest developments in materials as well. In partnership with NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, the laboratory is working to develop flight applications for shape memory alloys, which are a class of metals that exhibit the ability to change shape with the application of heat.

The E-2C Hawkeye was the largest non-NASA aircraft that went through loads calibration testing in the lab. Testing incorporated the effect of engine loads into the calibration.

Credits: NASA / Tony Landis

Using these new materials could potentially enhance safety and reduce maintenance on future actuators, or be used in a new generation of aircraft wings that can change their shape to better maximize aerodynamic forces and fuel consumption.

The laboratory has been working to develop techniques to measure strains on highly elastic materials using a sensor technique developed for the medical industry. NASA researcher Anthony “Nino” Piazza worked with a company to modify those sensors to create a sensor suitable for making strain measurements on such research projects as NASA Langley Research Center’s Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, or HIAD.

NASA Armstrong's Flight Loads Laboratory is an asset not only for the center, but also for the agency and the nation. The extraordinary assemblage of people, skills and capabilities exist in very few places. Industry also is a regular partner, asking for help on myriad projects such as the shuttle elevon seal test and X-37 work previously mentioned. Another is the load testing of AeroVironment's Global Observer Wing, the first large-scale loads test that employed distributed strain sensing via optical fibers.

Federal government branches have come to the laboratory as well, including the U.S. Navy in 2004-2005 with an E-2C Hawkeye. The Navy required advanced and thorough loads testing of the aircraft wings prior to major upgrades to the Hawkeye fleet.

NASA Armstrong's Flight Loads Laboratory is often better known outside of Armstrong than it is within the center: its work, its value and its reputation radiate widely. Its work melds research and support of safety into a constant pursuit of understanding the latest technology developments in aerospace testing and ensuring that research aircraft complete their missions safely. The laboratory and its staff ensure that these two go together seamlessly.

Flight Loads Lab staff considers the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, or HIAD, torus test to be one of the most unique loads tests ever performed in the lab.

Credits: NASA / Ken Ulbrich

For more on the accomplishments and capabilities of NASA Armstrong's Flight Loads Laboratory over its first half-century, click here.

--Christian Gelzer, Historian
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Yvonne Gibbs

Tags:  Aeronautics, Armstrong Flight Research Center, NASA History,

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NASA Armstrong

Oct. 16, 2014

Fiber Optic Sensing, Segmented Flaps Improve Flight Efficiency

In an ongoing effort to make airplanes fly more efficiently, NASA Aeronautics Academy interns have developed and flight-tested a flight control system employing multiple segmented trailing-edge flaps and a fiber-optic sensing system that could significantly improve aerodynamic efficiency while reducing flight loads on the wing.

While NASA Armstrong engineer and mentor Frank Pena monitors data, NASA Aeronautics Academy intern Ben Martins conducts pre-flight checks on the APV-3 small unmanned research aircraft before its first test flight with a control system that combines segmented flaps and fiber optic sensors

The flaps, a hinged flight control surface attached to the trailing edge of each wing of a fixed-wing aircraft to provide additional lift during takeoff and landing approach, were cut into 44 smaller segments with an appearance akin to "mechanical feathers." While the force of the wind blows a bird’s feathers, these flaps react to the wind’s force and essentially change the shape of the wing to increase its efficiency.

“The major benefit would be fuel savings,” said Ben Martins of the NASA Aeronautics Academy, a summer internship program of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. “For the consumer, that would lead directly to cost savings, so the price of airline tickets would be cheaper. It’s also better for the environment.”

The flight tests with a modified APV-3 small unmanned research aircraft at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center focused on two technologies -- use of multiple small flaps to redistribute the loads on the wings and the NASA-developed Fiber Optic Sensing System, or FOSS, to provide flight loads data in real time.

The FOSS system measures real-time strain or stress, which can then be used to determine two- and three-dimensional shape, temperature, liquid level, pressure and loads, either alone or in combination. As FOSS sensed changes in the flight loads on the APV-3's wing, the flight control system adjusted the segmented flaps to redistribute the load, mitigating stress on the aircraft wing.

NASA Aeronautics Academy intern Ben Martins and small unmanned aerial systems pilot Robert ‘Red’ Jensen conduct pre-flight checks on the APV-3 research aircraft before the first test flight of a control system that combines segmented flaps and fiber optic sensors.

Two NASA Armstrong researchers, Lance Richards and William Ko, co-patented the structural algorithms for FOSS. The algorithms make the fiber optics-based sensing technology potentially applicable for a wide variety of uses.

The idea to substitute multiple small control surfaces in place of a single wing flap came from a concept based on previous research. Martins began working on the project in the summer of 2013 and conducted the first flight test in February this year. Under the mentorship of Francisco Pena of the AERO Institute in Palmdale, California, a team of five Aeronautics Academy interns conducted test flights investigating this concept on the APV-3 sub-scale aircraft. The team of interns included Martins, Anthony Millican, Anachristina Morino, Alexander Patterson, and Steven Vo.

The research could lead to lighter wing structures that are just as capable of handling the stresses of flight as current wing structures. Lighter wings would further increase aircraft fuel efficiency. Potentially, the technology could have even more of an impact on future aviation.

“This technology should eventually be applied to completely flexible wings,” said Patterson. “You will start seeing wings that can change their entire shape during flight. I think that is one of the futures of aviation.”  

The 2014 NASA Aeronautics Academy was and hosted and operated at several NASA research centers, including NASA Armstrong at Edwards, California. NASA Armstrong's Aeronautics Academy internship program was based at the AERO Institute in Palmdale, California.

With a small video camera mounted atop the center wing to record control surface movement, the small unmanned APV-3 research aircraft takes to the air for the first time with a flight control system incorporating segmented wing flaps and fiber optic sensors to reduce dynamic loads on the wing.

(Postscript: NASA Aeronautics Academy intern Benjamin Martins, a graduate student at the University of California—San Diego, was named in September as one of 20 undergraduate and graduate university students who were selected from among hundreds of applicants to be the recipients of a NASA Aeronautics Scholarship for the 2014-2015 academic year. Graduate scholarship winners will receive approximately $45,000 a year for two years and $10,000 stipends for two summer internships, providing they continue to meet the academic standards of the universities they attend.)

NASA Armstrong photos by Ken Ulbrich

Sam Smith / Kate Squires, public affairs
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Aeronautics, Armstrong Flight Research Center,

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NASA Armstrong

Oct. 8, 2014

NASA Exhibit Welcomes Visitors, Even if Weather Doesn't Cooperate

Nothing flies without the weatherman.

That's something that NASA knows about in flying experimental aircraft and the same is true at the 43rd Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico that is continuing through Oct. 12.

There was at least one very large happy face at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

A near-perfect day greeted balloonists and enthusiasts alike on the first day of the fiesta Oct. 4, but winds kept the colorful airships grounded on Sunday, Oct. 5. While the wind blew away some opportunities for flying, the enthusiastic crowds stayed as the balloonists fired up their propane burners later that morning to inflate a number of balloons on the field even though they could not get airborne.

NASA's aeronautics and science exhibits are among scores of displays and exhibits that enthralled balloon enthusiasts attending the fiesta. NASA's aeronautics exhibit includes a display of future aviation concepts and examples of how NASA aeronautics technology is "with you when you fly." NASA is currently testing and integrating a number of new technologies designed to reduce aircraft noise and emissions, maximize fuel efficiency and improve air traffic management.

Balloon fiesta visitors also had a chance to learn about NASA's scientific balloons that scientists use to support a multitude of scientific and technology investigations. The exhibit is timely, as a NASA scientific balloon research campaign that began in August at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, wraps up later this week – if the weather cooperates for a final flight.

One of the missions in that campaign, called the High Altitude Student Platform, represents the latest in a series of collaborative efforts between Louisiana State University, NASA’s Balloon Program Office and the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

Arthur Sears looks at the possible future of NASA Aeronautics research, represented by a display of futuristic aircraft concept models.

The effort seeks to develop and operate an inexpensive platform that can be used to flight test compact satellites, prototypes and other small payloads designed and built by college and university students. Other missions in the same campaign support a number of astrophysics investigations.

NASA's aeronautics efforts are the focus of the exhibit highlighting work at the four field centers across the nation: NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California; NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, California.

On the first day of the 2014 fiesta Oct. 4, former NASA astronaut Mike Mullane, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, talked about his unlikely rise to become an astronaut through hard work. He encouraged young people to follow their dreams.

A representative payload container for UP Aerospace Inc.'s SpaceLoft 9 suborbital rocket is also on display at the NASA exhibit. SpaceLoft 9 is scheduled to launch several space technology payloads for NASA's Flight Opportunities Program later this month from Spaceport America near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

NASA Armstrong is responsible for the agency's exhibit at the balloon fiesta.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta attendees throng the NASA exhibit.

Story and photos by Jay Levine, editor, The X-Press
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Aeronautics, Armstrong Flight Research Center,

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June 19, 2014

14-17

College Students Study Earth From NASA's DC-8 Flying Lab

Thirty-two undergraduate students from a like number of colleges and universities are participating in an eight-week NASA Airborne Science Program field experience designed to immerse them in the agency's Earth Science research.

Jonathan Hemingway, an applied meteorology and computational mathematics major at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, assists in installation of the Whole Air Sampler instrument on NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory.

Josette Marrero, a Ph.D. candidate in the Rowland-Blake Lab at UC Irvine, explains the installation of the Whole Air Sampler on board NASA's DC-8 to Student Airborne Research Program participants.

Caleb Sykora-Bodie, an environmental geoscience and geography major at Slippery Rock University, connects lines during installation of the Whole Air Sampler instrument for the SARP flights.

Krystal Vasquez, a chemistry major at the University of California, Riverside, assists in the installation of the Whole Air Sampler instrument on NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory.

Flying aboard NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory, students will measure pollution, aerosols (small particles suspended in the atmosphere) and air quality in the Los Angeles basin and California’s central valley. They will also use remote sensing instruments to study forest ecology in the Sierra Nevada and ocean biology along the California coast.

Now in its sixth year, NASA's Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students majoring in the sciences, mathematics and engineering to participate in all aspects of a NASA Airborne Science research campaign.

SARP participants are given a rare behind-the-scenes look at the instrument installation, flight planning and scientific data collection that is the basis of every successful NASA Earth Science airborne campaign. These campaigns play a pivotal role in the acquisition of process-oriented knowledge about the Earth system, as well as calibration of NASA's space-borne Earth observation instruments, validation of remote sensing measurements and high-resolution imagery for Earth system science.

SARP began June 16 at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center's facility in Palmdale, California, with lectures by university faculty members, NASA scientists and NASA program managers. The students will then be aboard the DC-8 on five flights during the week of June 23. They will acquire multi-spectral images of kelp beds in the Santa Barbara Channel and of forests in the Sierra Nevada.

In addition, the students will fly over dairies and oil fields in the San Joaquin Valley, parts of the Los Angeles basin and the Salton Sea at altitudes as low as 1,000 feet in order to collect air samples, measure aerosols and air quality. During the final flight, half of the students will be in the field taking ground validation or complementary measurements while the DC-8 flies overhead.

The final six weeks of the program will take place at the University of California, Irvine where students will analyze and interpret the data they collected from science instruments on the aircraft.  At the conclusion of the program, the students will each deliver final presentations about their results and conclusions in front of an audience of NASA scientists and administrators, university faculty members and their fellow SARP students. In past summers, many students have gone on to present their SARP research projects at national conferences.

Students participating in the 2014 SARP represent 32 different colleges and universities from across the United States. They were competitively selected based on their outstanding academic performance, future career plans and interest in the Earth System Science.

The Student Airborne Research Program is one of NASA's tools to expose future scientists to the Earth Science missions that support environmental studies and the testing and development of new instruments and future satellite mission concepts. The program's goal is to stimulate interest in NASA's Earth Science research and aid in the recruitment and training of the next generation of scientists and engineers, many of whom will be getting their first hands-on research experience during this program.

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

SARP is managed by NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, through the National Suborbital Education and Research Center (NSERC) at the University of North Dakota.  As part of the Ames Cooperative for Research in Earth Science and Technology, NSERC receives funding and support from NASA’s Earth Science Division.

For additional information about SARP, visit:

http://www.nserc.und.edu/sarp

View video about the 2013 SARP experience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjRYmVKbqSw

For more about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

For more on NASA's Airborne Science Program, visit:

http://airbornescience.nasa.gov

For additional information about NASA's DC-8, visit:

http://airbornescience.nasa.gov/aircraft/DC-8

NASA / NSERC photos by Jane Peterson

Emily Schaller, Science and Education Coordinator
National Suborbital Education and Research Center
701-317-0789
e.schaller@nserc.und.edu

Rachel Hoover
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Callif.
650-604-4789
rachel.hoover@nasa.gov

Alan Brown
Armstrong Flight Research Center
661-276-2665
alan.brown@nasa.gov

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center, Earth,

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June 19, 2014

14-17

College Students Study Earth From NASA's DC-8 Flying Lab

Thirty-two undergraduate students from a like number of colleges and universities are participating in an eight-week NASA Airborne Science Program field experience designed to immerse them in the agency's Earth Science research.

Jonathan Hemingway, an applied meteorology and computational mathematics major at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, assists in installation of the Whole Air Sampler instrument on NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory.

Josette Marrero, a Ph.D. candidate in the Rowland-Blake Lab at UC Irvine, explains the installation of the Whole Air Sampler on board NASA's DC-8 to Student Airborne Research Program participants.

Caleb Sykora-Bodie, an environmental geoscience and geography major at Slippery Rock University, connects lines during installation of the Whole Air Sampler instrument for the SARP flights.

Krystal Vasquez, a chemistry major at the University of California, Riverside, assists in the installation of the Whole Air Sampler instrument on NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory.

Flying aboard NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory, students will measure pollution, aerosols (small particles suspended in the atmosphere) and air quality in the Los Angeles basin and California’s central valley. They will also use remote sensing instruments to study forest ecology in the Sierra Nevada and ocean biology along the California coast.

Now in its sixth year, NASA's Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students majoring in the sciences, mathematics and engineering to participate in all aspects of a NASA Airborne Science research campaign.

SARP participants are given a rare behind-the-scenes look at the instrument installation, flight planning and scientific data collection that is the basis of every successful NASA Earth Science airborne campaign. These campaigns play a pivotal role in the acquisition of process-oriented knowledge about the Earth system, as well as calibration of NASA's space-borne Earth observation instruments, validation of remote sensing measurements and high-resolution imagery for Earth system science.

SARP began June 16 at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center's facility in Palmdale, California, with lectures by university faculty members, NASA scientists and NASA program managers. The students will then be aboard the DC-8 on five flights during the week of June 23. They will acquire multi-spectral images of kelp beds in the Santa Barbara Channel and of forests in the Sierra Nevada.

In addition, the students will fly over dairies and oil fields in the San Joaquin Valley, parts of the Los Angeles basin and the Salton Sea at altitudes as low as 1,000 feet in order to collect air samples, measure aerosols and air quality. During the final flight, half of the students will be in the field taking ground validation or complementary measurements while the DC-8 flies overhead.

The final six weeks of the program will take place at the University of California, Irvine where students will analyze and interpret the data they collected from science instruments on the aircraft.  At the conclusion of the program, the students will each deliver final presentations about their results and conclusions in front of an audience of NASA scientists and administrators, university faculty members and their fellow SARP students. In past summers, many students have gone on to present their SARP research projects at national conferences.

Students participating in the 2014 SARP represent 32 different colleges and universities from across the United States. They were competitively selected based on their outstanding academic performance, future career plans and interest in the Earth System Science.

The Student Airborne Research Program is one of NASA's tools to expose future scientists to the Earth Science missions that support environmental studies and the testing and development of new instruments and future satellite mission concepts. The program's goal is to stimulate interest in NASA's Earth Science research and aid in the recruitment and training of the next generation of scientists and engineers, many of whom will be getting their first hands-on research experience during this program.

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

SARP is managed by NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, through the National Suborbital Education and Research Center (NSERC) at the University of North Dakota.  As part of the Ames Cooperative for Research in Earth Science and Technology, NSERC receives funding and support from NASA’s Earth Science Division.

For additional information about SARP, visit:

http://www.nserc.und.edu/sarp

View video about the 2013 SARP experience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjRYmVKbqSw

For more about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

For more on NASA's Airborne Science Program, visit:

http://airbornescience.nasa.gov

For additional information about NASA's DC-8, visit:

http://airbornescience.nasa.gov/aircraft/DC-8

NASA / NSERC photos by Jane Peterson

Emily Schaller, Science and Education Coordinator
National Suborbital Education and Research Center
701-317-0789
e.schaller@nserc.und.edu

Rachel Hoover
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Callif.
650-604-4789
rachel.hoover@nasa.gov

Alan Brown
Armstrong Flight Research Center
661-276-2665
alan.brown@nasa.gov

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center, Earth,

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HS3 Hurricane

May 30, 2014

NASA Widens 2014 Hurricane Research Mission

NASA's airborne Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel or HS3 mission, will revisit the Atlantic Ocean for the third year in a row.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Ryan Fitzgibbons

Download this video in HD formats from NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

During this year's Atlantic hurricane season, NASA is redoubling its efforts to probe the inner workings of hurricanes and tropical storms with two unmanned Global Hawk aircraft flying over storms and two new space-based missions.

Five new NASA Earth science missions are launching in 2014 to expand our understanding of Earth’s changing climate and environment.

NASA's "Earth Right Now" website

NASA's airborne Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel or HS3 mission, will revisit the Atlantic Ocean for the third year in a row. HS3 is a collaborative effort that brings together several NASA centers with federal and university partners to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin. The flights from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia take place between Aug. 26 and Sept. 29 during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season that runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

"This year we're going full-force into tropical cyclone research," said Scott Braun, HS3 mission principal investigator and research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "We'll have two Global Hawks equipped with six instruments. The new NASA-JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory will be providing much higher quality data than previously available on rain structure in tropical cyclones in all ocean basins. The surface-wind monitoring ISS-RapidScat instrument to be launched to the International Space Station this season will provide valuable information on surface winds in storms."

One of the remaining mysteries that HS3 is attempting to solve is the effect of the hot, dry and dusty Saharan Air Layer (SAL) in tropical storm formation and intensification. Some research points to SAL contributing to storm formation, while other research indicates SAL suppresses it. HS3 also will investigate the role of strong thunderstorms near the core of the storms as a possible driver of intensity change.   

This animation shows how NASA scientists investigated the Saharan Air Layer during Hurricane Nadine. The blue to white data in the curtains is attenuated backscatter from Cloud Physics Lidar. The dropsonde data pillars show relative humidity where blue represents dry air and red represents moist air

Credits: NASA

This year NOAA, in addition to managing all of the dropsondes during the HS3 mission, will enable the mission to fly another week to better study tropical cyclones. A dropsonde is a device that measures winds, temperature and humidity, dropped from an aircraft.

The NASA Global Hawks are unmanned aircraft that will be piloted remotely from the HS3 mission control at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Global Hawk aircraft are well-suited for hurricane investigations because they can fly for as long as 26 hours and fly above hurricanes at altitudes greater than 55,000 feet.

One Global Hawk will carry three instruments to examine the environment around the storms, including the Scanning High-resolution Interferometer Sounder (S-HIS), the Advanced Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (AVAPS), also known as dropsondes, and the Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL).

The second Global Hawk will focus on the inner region of the storms to measure wind and precipitation, surface winds, and atmospheric temperature and humidity. It will carry the High-Altitude Imaging Wind and Rain Airborne Profiler (HIWRAP) conically scanning Doppler radar, the Hurricane Imaging Radiometer (HIRAD), and the High-Altitude Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR) microwave sounder.

The GPM mission, launched Feb. 27, will provide rainfall measurements every three hours around the globe, and will complement the HS3 mission. Like GPM's predecessor, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, GPM will continue to provide insights into the dynamics of a storm, such as how the storm's structure changes over the life cycle of the storm, including intensification and decay stages, and how storm intensification may depend on the presence of deep thunderstorms, known as hot towers, near the eyewall. The GPM mission will extend coverage to higher latitudes and improve scientists' ability to evaluate how storms change in intensity and structure as they move into the extra-tropics.

Artist's rendering of NASA's ISS-RapidScat instrument (inset), which will launch to the ISS in 2014 to measure ocean surface wind speed and direction and help improve weather forecasts, including hurricane monitoring. It will be installed on the end of the station's Columbus laboratory.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JSC

The ISS-RapidScat instrument, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is slated for launch to the International Space Station in August. RapidScat will measure ocean surface winds in Earth's tropics and mid-latitudes and will provide useful data for weather forecasting of marine storms.

HS3’s project management is at NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California - home of the Earth Science Projects Office (ESPO). Other participating NASA centers involved in the campaign include: Goddard, the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and JPL. 

The HS3 mission is funded by NASA Headquarters and overseen by NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder Program at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and is one of five large field campaigns operating under the Earth Venture program. The HS3 mission also involves collaborations with partners including the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, Naval Postgraduate School, Naval Research Laboratory, NOAA's Hurricane Research Division and Earth System Research Laboratory, Northrop Grumman Space Technology, National Center for Atmospheric Research, State University of New York at Albany, University of Maryland - Baltimore County, University of Wisconsin, and University of Utah.

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit:  http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

Related Links:

HS3 Mission - www.nasa.gov/hs3
NASA Hurricane Research - www.nasa.gov/hurricane
NASA's Airborne Science Program - http://airbornescience.nasa.gov
GPM Mission - www.nasa.gov/gpm
Rapidscat - https://winds.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/RapidScat/
GPM Flickr photos - https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/10860068536/in/set-72157637675525645
Globalhawk montage photos - http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasas-2013-hs3-mission-global-hawk-heads-home/#.U3ESg4WPMhU
What is NASA's HS3 Mission? video - https://espo.nasa.gov/missions/hs3/content/HS3_Mission_Overview

Rob Gutro
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Lynn Jenner

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center, Earth, Goddard Space Flight Center, Hazards, HS3 Hurricane Mission (Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel), Hurricanes,

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NASA Armstrong

May 23, 2014

NASA's Alternative Fuel Effects Research Showcased

Social media followers and news media representatives from across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom came to the high desert of Southern California May 20 to learn about a NASA project that is investigating the effects of alternative fuels on the environment.

Tina Jurkat of the German Aerospace Agency DLR explains her agency's role in the ACCESS II alternative fuels emissions research to social media follower Darren Moser, producer of the "Dr. SciFi Show" podcasts.

Based at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center's facilities in Palmdale and Edwards, California, the NASA Social focused on the Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions, or ACCESS II, research effort and a look at what's new in aerospace research at NASA Armstrong's facilities.

The ACCESS II research supports NASA Aeronautics' strategic vision, one of whose goals is to enable transition of the aviation industry to low-carbon fuels and alternative propulsion systems.

The ACCESS II campaign is a joint project involving NASA Armstrong, NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, along with partner agencies the German Aerospace Agency (DLR) and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada.

Key speakers during briefings on ACCESS II included NASA Langley's Bruce Anderson, ACCESS II chief scientist and principal investigator; NASA Glenn's Rubén Del Rosario, NASA Aeronautics Fixed Wing Project manager; and NASA Armstrong's Gary Martin, deputy project manager for the Fixed Wing project.

Four research aircraft have been involved in the ACCESS II campaign -- the German Aerospace Center's Falcon 20-E5, the National Research Council of Canada's CT-133, NASA's four-engine DC-8 flying laboratory, and NASA's HU-25C Guardian. In addition to learning about the aircraft involved in the missions, event attendees were able to board the DC-8 and HU-25C.

Scott Spiro, left, and Gordon Tokumatsu, right, of KNBC-TV, Ch. 4 in Los Angeles interview Bruce Anderson of NASA's Langley Research Center, chief scientist for the ACCESS II research effort during the ACCESS II NASA Social and media day at NASA Armstrong's Palmdale facility.

Following presentations and tours at NASA Armstrong's Bldg. 703 in Palmdale, many of the attendees were transported some 40 miles to NASA Armstrong's main campus at Edwards, where they toured aircraft hangars, experimental fabrication facilities, the model shop, and key historic aircraft.

Attendees learned first-hand from NASA Armstrong employees about NASA aeronautics research and work at the center, including a panel session with NASA Armstrong flight test engineers Michelle Haupt and Tom Jones and research pilots Nils Larson, Hernan Posada, and Jim Less.

NASA continues to push for aeronautics innovations, said Jones.

"What gets me to work everyday is what we are trying to do, which is to literally change the world," he said.

For example, Langley and Armstrong are working on steps to remove technical and regulatory barriers that currently prohibit commercial supersonic flight over land.

"I see my family on the East Coast [only] once or twice a year. I want to see them more," he added.

While it was clear that the panel members all enjoyed their work, Posada, who pilots unmanned vehicles, noted the work is complex.

"This is not a video game. We treat it like we are in the aircraft even if we are thousands of miles away from the mission we are flying," he said.

NASA Langley scientist Luke Ziemba, left, discusses the ACCESS II alternative fuels emission research with NASA Social attendee Bo Lowrey on board Langley's modified HU-25C Guardian research aircraft.

When asked by a social media attendee what excited them the most about their work, Larson had a ready quip:

"We have really cool toys to play with. We never had to grow up!"

The tours offered a ton of "eye candy," said social media attendee Susan Hosking, including her first look at the Global Hawk aircraft NASA flies for environmental missions, such as an upcoming hurricane mission. The alternative fuels research, environmental missions and work inspired by birds in flight were, in her words, "close to my heart."

Matt Nicolaysen of Oakdale, California, was surprised at the quantity of aircraft involved in experimentation and tests.

"It made me realize there is more going on than we hear about," he added.

NASA Social participant Rob Drysdale, a project manager and information technology consultant from Toronto, Canada, said he is an aviation and space enthusiast who is concerned about the environment and climate change. For him, this was an event that matched his interests.

"The ACCESS II research really interested me because the National Research Council of Canada is a partner," Drysdale said. "I liked seeing the planes and seeing the passion of the people doing this work."

Social media attendee Michelle Cassel, a financial manager in the aviation industry in ontario, Canada, said she appreciated the tour of NASA Armstrong's experimental fabrication shop, where "designs come to life." She added that she enjoyed sitting in the pilot's seat of NASA Langley's HU-25C, "although they would not let me touch the buttons!"

NASA photos by Tom Tschida

Jay Levine, Editor, The X-Press
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Yvonne Gibbs

Tags:  Aeronautics, Armstrong Flight Research Center,

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NASA Armstrong

April 4, 2014

NASA Brings Science to Life in Guam Classrooms

Students from Guam High School pose next to the Global Hawk after their field trip to the hangar at Andersen Air Force Base.

A team of NASA researchers and a NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft traveled to the Micronesian Island of Guam for eight weeks of atmospheric science investigations from Jan. 17 through March 14. The goal of the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), missions to better understand the composition and humidity of the Tropical Tropopause Layer – an atmospheric layer located approximately 55,000 feet above the surface of Earth in the tropics. 

NASA’s Global Hawk No. 872, normally based at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., was flown to and based out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam during the two-month period to provide scientists with direct access to the tropical tropopause. The data acquired during these ATTREX flights will be used to better predict stratospheric humidity and chemical composition, which will help to improve models of global climate change.

In addition to completing cutting-edge atmospheric science, the ATTREX team took time to share the excitement of their scientific mission with the public and with elementary through high school students and teachers in Guam. 

Over the course of the mission, a team of ATTREX scientists, engineers, and pilots gave 34 presentations at eight middle and high schools in Guam before more than 3,500 students. 

"There is nothing that can replace seeing real people talking about their daily work," said Colette Beausoleil, science teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Tamuning, Guam.  "It’s fantastic to have real scientists, real pilots, real engineers and technicians come in and share their experiences with the kids because that brings science to life.”

The ATTREX team also worked with the Department of Defense Education Activity to organize a field trip for a group of over 200 students and their teachers from Guam High School. During the field trip, students and teachers saw the Global Hawk and its instruments up close at Andersen Air Force Base. Students learned about the different instruments installed on the Global Hawk and how they operate, talked to pilots about what it is like to fly a remotely operated plane, and saw the laboratory facilities used to analyze the data collected aboard the plane.

NASA Pilot Herman Posada talks to students at Inarajan Middle School, in Inarajan, Guam.

All of the Guam students and teachers also had the opportunity to continue to follow the ATTREX flights from their classrooms in real time with a web-based flight-following tool called the NASA Mission Tools Suite for Education (MTSE). MTSE now is used by schools all over the world to connect their classrooms to NASA Airborne Science Program missions and to text-chat live with mission personnel. During the ATTREX mission, 25 classrooms from Guam, the U.S. and Chile participated in live on-line chats through the MTSE website with ATTREX scientists, pilots and engineers in Guam.

“I just want to express my thanks to NASA and to the ATTREX project for coming into our schools," said Steven Bloom, Guam High School superintendent. "It is just so important for our students today to see the relevance of what they are reading in the book to real life problems in our environment. The ability to communicate with the scientists and the pilots during an actual mission should stimulate them and create so much motivation. I’m sure that we’re going to see the next generation of scientists and engineers come out of the work that’s going on with your outreach program.”

View video of ATTREX Guam Educational Outreach Activities:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0-EY65Gj8s

For more on NASA's ATTREX airborne science mission, visit:

https://espo.nasa.gov/missions/attrex

--Emily Schaller, Education & Public Outreach
NASA Airborne Science Program
National Suborbital Education and Research Center

Photos by Rafael Mendez / Diego Beltran, Artefocal

Teachers who would like to connect their classes to future NASA Airborne Science Program missions may contact Emily Schaller of the NASA Airborne Science Program, National Suborbital Education and Research Center, at 701-317-0789, email emily.schaller@nasa.gov.

Troy Thornberry of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains the functions of the NOAA water vapor instrument installed on NASA's Global Hawk for the ATTREX mission.

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Yvonne Gibbs

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center,

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NASA Armstrong

March 15, 2014

NASA Completes This Year's Flights in Search of Climate Change Clues

NASA's Global Hawk No. 872 flares for landing at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam to begin the 2014 ATTREX climate-change mission Jan. 17. The two-month-long airborne science flight campaign wrapped up with the aircraft's return to NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center March 14. (U.S. Air Force)

NASA's Global Hawk research aircraft returned to its base at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., early Friday morning March 14, marking the completion of flights in support of this year's Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), a multi-year NASA airborne science campaign.

On Feb. 13, the autonomously operated aircraft began conducting science flights from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam in the western Pacific region on a mission to track changes in the upper atmosphere and help researchers understand how these changes affect Earth's climate.

Mario Rana of Science Systems and Applications, Inc., at NASA Langley (foreground) and Jim Podolske of NASA Ames check out data recorded by the Diode Laser Hygrometer installed on NASA's Global Hawk following a 2014 ATTREX mission flight March 9 over the western Pacific Ocean. (NASA / Dave Fratello)

"The western Pacific region is critical for establishing the humidity of the air entering the stratosphere," said Eric Jensen, ATTREX principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

ATTREX measures the moisture levels and chemical composition of upper regions of the lowest layer of Earth's atmosphere, a region where even small changes can significantly impact climate. Scientists will use the data to better understand physical processes occurring in this part of the atmosphere and help make more accurate climate predictions.

Studies show even slight changes in the chemistry and amount of water vapor in the stratosphere, the same region that is home to the ozone layer that protects life on Earth from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation, can affect climate significantly by absorbing thermal radiation rising from the surface. Predictions of stratospheric humidity changes are uncertain because of gaps in the understanding of the physical processes occurring in the tropical tropopause layer.

ATTREX is studying moisture and chemical composition from altitudes of 45,000 to 60,000 feet in the tropical tropopause, which is the transition layer between the troposphere, the lowest part of the atmosphere, and the stratosphere, which extends to roughly 30 miles above Earth's surface. Scientists consider the tropical tropopause to be the gateway for water vapor, ozone and other gases that enter the stratosphere. For this mission, the Global Hawk carries instruments that will sample the tropopause near the equator over the Pacific Ocean.

ATTREX scientists installed 13 research instruments on NASA's Global Hawk 872. Some of these instruments capture air samples while others use remote sensing to analyze clouds, temperature, water vapor, gases and solar radiation.

This year, ATTREX conducted seven long-duration science flights totaling 121 hours, averaging more than 17 hours per flight. This year's flights bring the total hours flown in support of ATTREX to 297 hours since 2011.

A team of NOAA researchers checks out the UAS Chromatograph for Atmospheric Trace Species (UCATS) instrument installed in NASA's unmanned Global Hawk for the ATTREX mission. (NASA photo)

Jensen and Project Manager Dave Jordan of Ames lead the ATTREX mission. It includes investigators from Ames and three other NASA facilities: Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The team also includes investigators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Miami, the University of Heidelberg, and private industry.

ATTREX is one of the first research missions of NASA's new Earth Venture project. These small and targeted science investigations complement NASA's broader science research satellite missions. The Earth Venture missions are part of NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder Program managed by Langley.

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

Rachel Hoover, public affairs
NASA Ames Research Center

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Jaimie Baccus

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center, Climate, Earth,

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NASA Armstrong

March 7, 2014

SOFIA's Target of Opportunity: Observing Supernova 2014J

The first two images above show the central portions of galaxy M82 prior to the supernova explosion, while the right image shows Supernova SN2014J taken by the FLITECAM instrument on the SOFIA observatory on Feb. 20.

Credits: NASA/SOFIA/FLITECAM team / Sachindev Shenoy

On four flights in late February, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) focused on an explosion known as a supernova that obliterated the remains of a star about the mass of the sun in the Messier 82 galaxy (M82). Located 11 million light years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major, the exploding star is named Supernova (SN) 2014J.

NASA called upon SOFIA to view the supernova on Feb. 18, 20, 24 and 26 using the converted jetliner's 2.5-meter diameter telescope that is optimized for collecting radiation at infrared wavelengths. SOFIA is able to fly above 99 percent of the water vapor in the Earth's atmosphere that blocks most infrared light from being observed by ground-based telescopes.

Supernova 2014J is a Type 1a supernova, known to astronomers as a "standard candle." The power output of a standard candle is well-known. In the same way that you can estimate the distance of a flashlight of known wattage by seeing how bright or faint it appears, astronomical standard candles allow determination of distances to objects that are extremely far away. Type 1a supernovae are the main yardsticks used to measure the expansion of the universe and demonstrate that the expansion is actually accelerating.

Supernovae are also important in a way that's surprisingly relevant to life on Earth. Most of the atoms in the universe more massive than iron (such as nickel, lead, gold, silver, and platinum) are made in the incomprehensible heat of supernova explosions. Essentially all the gold or silver you own, and the nickel in the coins in your pocket, was forged originally in supernova explosions that happened long before Earth formed.

"SN 2014J is the brightest and closest Type 1a supernova we've seen in the last 40 years and that's why it's exciting," said Erick Young, science mission operations director from the SOFIA Science Center at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. "We have been finishing our last instrument commissioning tests as we prepare to transition from an experimental platform into a fully operational observatory. While we were airborne, we wanted to use Supernova 2014J as a test target. We've taken some very interesting images of the exploding star, but what the scientific community wants to study most is the spectroscopic data we've obtained using the FLITECAM (First Light Infrared Test Experiment CAMera) instrument."

SOFIA instrument scientist Maureen Savage, Sarah Langdon of UCLA, FLITECAM Principal Investigator Ian McLean of UCLA, SOFIA Senior Science Advisor William Vacca, and SOFIA Chief Science Advisor Eric Becklin review infrared data of SN2014J during a SOFIA observatory mission in February 2014.

Credits: NASA/USRA / Nick Veronico

Developed by Professor Ian McLean and his team at the University of California, Los Angeles, FLITECAM is a near-infrared camera with spectrographic capabilities. Its near-infrared camera detects light in the 1- to 5.2-micron wavelength range. Each element has its own unique spectral signature, which FLITECAM can record using its grism spectrometer. The FLITECAM team is using those data to study infrared spectral lines that cannot be detected from Earth or from any current space observatory.

Astronomers estimate that the first light from the SN2014J explosion reached Earth during the night of Jan. 14-15, but was first noticed on Jan. 21 by a group of students at the University of London Observatory. In the weeks following its discovery, most telescopes on Earth and in space have observed the exploding star to produce a variety of intriguing images.

SOFIA's supernova studies were accomplished using a pool of observing hours that Science Mission Operations Director Young can use for targets that require a quick reaction, such as SN2014J, or other unusual projects. Five principal investigators were awarded observing time to use SOFIA's instrumentation during the next few months to study SN2014J. The scientists whose proposals were selected were Peter Garnavich from the University of Notre Dame, Bob Gehrz from the University of Minnesota, Jason Spyromillo from the European Southern Observatory, plus SOFIA staff scientists Ryan Hamilton and Bill Vacca.

Observations Over the Pacific Ocean
For its observations on the night of Feb. 20-21, SOFIA took off from its home base at the NASA Science and Aircraft Integration Facility in Palmdale, Calif., for the nearly 10-hour mission.

FLITECAM can be co-mounted onto the SOFIA telescope with the High-speed Imaging Photometer for Occultations (HIPO) instrument. During the flight, the HIPO instrument team from the Lowell Observatory, in Flagstaff, Ariz., used the time to finish some commissioning tests, testing HIPO's sensitivity to objects near the horizon during twilight. Measurements from these tests will be used to determine observing procedures for future observations.

Observations of Supernova 2014J began 750 miles north of Hawaii and continued in a sweeping arc back to the U.S. mainland.

"This supernova was a good target for our commissioning because it is both relatively bright and has high contrast against the galaxy – this single exploding star outshines the other 100 billion stars in the M82 galaxy," said McLean.

"Astronomers would like to observe the supernova across the entire optical and infrared spectrum without any obscuration caused by absorption in Earth's atmosphere," McLean noted. "You really cannot make those observations from the ground, even from a site like Mauna Kea in Hawaii, which is at 14,000 feet. There's still strong absorption at a number of near-infrared wavelengths, especially from 1.37 to 1.50 microns between the J and H bands, and from 1.8 to 2.0 microns between the H and K bands.

(Near-infrared wavelength ranges in which Earth's atmosphere is especially transparent have been given letter designations by astronomers: J = 1.13 to 1.37 microns, H = 1.50 to 1.80 microns, K = 2.01 to 2.42 microns.)

"We know that the spectra of the supernova have strong emission features in those wavelength ranges," he said. "Using FLITECAM, it was easy to place the spectrograph slit on to the bright supernova star and get its spectrum. We have, indeed, measured the spectrum continuously from 1 to 3 microns with no interruptions due to atmospheric water vapor absorption, so those data are pretty spectacular.

"To be able to observe the supernova without having to make assumptions about the absorption of the Earth's atmosphere is great," McLean continued. "You could make these observations from space as well, if there was a suitable infrared spectrograph to make those measurements, but right now there isn't one. So this observation is something SOFIA can do that is absolutely unique and extremely valuable to the astronomical community."

On board SOFIA during the supernova observations was guest investigator Howie Marion from the University of Texas at Austin. He was observing as the spectra were gathered on the flight.

"There is very high atmospheric opacity between the H- and K-bands. In spectra obtained with ground-based observations, that region is so noisy that the results are unusable," Marion said. "The FLITECAM spectrum has a good signal-to-noise ratio in that area because the opacity is so much lower at 43,000 feet. Connecting the dots across the gap from 1.8 to 2 microns is important because of the spectral features that are revealed and also to determine the shape of the continuum through the H- and K-bands. FLITECAM provided a beautiful continuous spectrum.

"When a Type 1a supernova explodes, the densest, hottest region within the core produces nickel 56. The radioactive decay of nickel-56 through cobalt-56 to iron-56 produces the light we are observing tonight," said Marion. "At this life phase of the supernova, about one month after we first saw the explosion, the H- and K-band spectra are dominated by lines of ionized cobalt. We plan to study the spectral features produced by these lines over a period of time and see how they change relative to each other. That will help us define the mass of the radioactive core of the supernova. Understanding small changes in the core mass from one Type 1a supernova to the next is an important part of predicting the total power output of each individual event. That information, in turn, will help studies of how dark matter and dark energy affect the expansion of the universe."

SOFIA and Supernova 2014J in the Coming Months
"During the course of these four flights, we've dedicated approximately eight hours of observing time to Supernova 2014J," said Young. "Later this year we'll install the Faint Object InfraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) instrument to make additional follow-up observations at mid-infrared wavelengths.

"All the data we've collected on Supernova 2014J will become public as soon as it is processed into a scientifically presentable form. The raw data will be accessible through our data cycle system in a few days, the imaging data a few days after, followed in a couple of weeks by the grism (spectroscopy) data. SOFIA's observations soon will be available to the astronomical community and we look forward to seeing the resulting scientific insights that they provide."

Supernova SN2014J principal investigators include Peter Garnavich of the University of Notre Dame, Bob Gehrz of the University of Minnesota, Jason Spyromillo of European Southern University, Ryan Hamilton and William Vacca of the Universities Science Research Association's SOFIA Science Center at NASA's Ames Research Center. 

Among the other major space-based observatories used in the M82 viewing campaign are NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer. In addition to SOFIA, key infrared observations are being collected by the Spitzer Space Telescope.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).  NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center manages the program, and the observatory is based at the center's Science and Aircraft Integration Facility in Palmdale, Calif. NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.

For more information about SOFIA's science mission, visit:

http://www.sofia.usra.edu

http://www.dsi.uni-stuttgart.de/index.en.html

For more on the M82 supernova as seen from the Spitzer space telescope, visit:

www.nasa.gov/jpl/spitzer/galaxy-20140226/

Nicholas A. Veronico, SOFIA Science Center
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Editor: Monroe Conner

Tags:  Ames Research Center, Armstrong Flight Research Center, SOFIA, Supernova,

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