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The Airborne Science Program within the Earth Science Division is responsible for providing aircraft systems that further science and advance the use of satellite data. The primary objectives of this program are to:
Provide platforms to enable essential calibration measurements for the Earth observing satellites, and the validation of data retrieval algorithms.
Provide sub-orbital flight opportunities to test and refine new instrument technologies/algorithms, and reduce risk prior to committing sensors for launch into space.
Obtain high-resolution temporal and spatial measurements of complex local processes, which can be coupled to global satellite observations for a better understanding of the complete Earth system.
Foster the development of our future workforce with the hands-on involvement of graduate students, and young scientists/engineers in all aspects of ongoing Earth science investigations.
To meet these observing objectives ASP maintains and operates a suite of sustained, ongoing platforms and sensors on which investigators can rely from year to year. From these known capabilities the Science Mission Directorate can develop observing strategies. However, an ongoing capability will be resource-constrained and eventually technology-constrained, so that not all observing requirements will be met with the limited core capability. Therefore the program facilitates access to other platforms or sensors on a funds-available, as-needed basis, to accommodate unique and/or occasional requirements. The Program also looks for new or evolving technologies to demonstrate their applicability for Earth science. Depending on the success of the demonstrations and the observing needs, the core capability is expected to evolve and change over time. The speed and extent of change will be balanced against the need for established, known capabilities for long-term planning.