The ICESat-2 mission flew a laser altimeter instrument aboard an aircraft over Greenland in August 2015, to determine how green laser light interacts with different types of snow and ice. (The peculiar appearance of the plane's propeller is an artifact of the way the digital camera records pixels, not all at once when an image is taken.) Credits: NASA/Mike Wusk

Greenland Campaign Takes Flight for Better Ice Sheet Measurements

A NASA instrument nestled in the belly of a small plane flew over Greenland’s ice sheet and the Arctic Ocean’s icy waters. Flying above creviced g...

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NASA Global Hawk

NASA Global Hawk Studies Erika

NASA’s remotely piloted Global Hawk 872 departed the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 7 a.m., August 26, for a 24 hour flight to study Tropica...

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NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland field campaign is gathering data to clarify how warm ocean water is speeding the loss of Greenland's glaciers. Credits: NordForsk

NASA's OMG Mission Maps Greenland's Coastline

NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) field campaign is gathering data that will help scientists both to understand how the oceans are joining with th...

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NASA’s remotely piloted Global Hawk aircraft arrived at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility early on Saturday, Aug. 22, where it will begin a NOAA-led mission seeking to improve hurricane forecasts.

NASA Aircraft to Begin NOAA Hurricane Mission

NASA’s remotely piloted Global Hawk aircraft will begin flights this week in support of a NOAA-led mission to improve hurricane track and intensity ...

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Total subsidence in California's San Joaquin Valley for the period June 2007 to Dec. 2010

California Drought Causing Valley Land to Sink

The California Department of Water Resources today released a new NASA report showing land in the San Joaquin Valley is sinking faster than ever befor...

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Understanding the capability of radar to detect high altitude icing is the goal of a NASA flight campaign about to begin in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  For the next three weeks, NASA researchers will be flying a DC-8 research plane, outfitted with state-of the-art radar and sophisticated meteorological probes to detect ice crystal icing conditions.

Flight Campaign Studies Radar Detection of Ice Crystal Icing

NASA researchers will be flying a DC-8 research plane, outfitted with state-of the-art radar and sophisticated meteorological probes to detect ice cry...

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NASA's DC-8 makes a low approach to Edwards Air Force Base. Credits: NASA Photo / Carla Thomas

DC-8 Reaches Milestone

NASA's DC-8 Flying Laboratory recently reached its third decade of delivering groundbreaking science.

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About the Airborne Science Program

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:

  • Satellite Calibration and Validation
  • Provide platforms to enable essential calibration measurements for the Earth observing satellites, and the validation of data retrieval algorithms.

  • Support New Sensor Development
  • Provide sub-orbital flight opportunities to test and refine new instrument technologies/algorithms, and reduce risk prior to committing sensors for launch into space.

  • Process Studies
  • 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.

  • Develop the Next-Generation of Scientists and Engineers
  • 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.