The NASA Airborne Science Program aircraft list provides unique NASA aircraft and commercial aircraft that benefit the earth science community. These manned and unmanned aircraft carry the sensors that provide data to support and augment NASA spaceborne missions.
Reminder: All investigators with approved or pending proposals from the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) announcements that have a requirement for a NASA Airborne Science platform/instrument, must submit a Flight Request. The Flight Request is also the method to acquire an estimate if your proposal requires a cost estimate for Airborne Science support. However, for investigators proposing to participate on large, multi-aircraft experiments, such as the ROSES Call 2015: KORUS-AQ (Korea US- Air Quality), a single Flight Request will be submitted for each mission by the Project Manager or Project Scientist. The Science Operations Flight Request System (SOFRS) can be reached directly at http://airbornescience.nasa.gov/sofrs.
For all "Commercial" aircraft, in addition to filing a Flight Request, investigators are responsible for contacting vendors to determine if the platform meets the requirements of the proposed scientific investigation. It is the responsibility of the investigator to ensure that before any preliminary test flights or actual data collection flights utilizing NASA personnel, instruments or funds occur, all vendors successfully complete a NASA airworthiness/flight safety review in accordance with NASA Aviation Safety Policy for Non-NASA Aircraft.
The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s (GSFC) Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) Aircraft Office operates the NASA Airborne Science Program's P-3 Orion research aircraft to support airborne science research. Wallops Flight Facility has operated the P-3 since 1991 in support of a variety of scientific studies including ecology, meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, cryospheric research, oceanography, soil science, biology, and satellite calibration/validation. The P-3 is also used as a technology test bed for new airborne and satellite instrumentation. The P-3 is a self-sufficient global reaching aircraft that can operate from civilian and military airports to remote areas of the world in support of scientific studies.
The P-3 is a four-engine turboprop aircraft designed for endurance and range and is capable of long duration flights. The P-3 has been extensively modified to support airborne science related activities. Aircraft features include zenith ports, three nadir ports (aft of the wings), and eight P-3 and DC-8 style windows to mount experiments, a tail cone, nose radome and ten mounting locations on the wings. Most of the fuselage ports are contained within the pressurized cabin environment. The unpressurized bomb bay can be converted into experimenter ports via a custom fairing. This fairing creates two large nadir ports and several oblique ports for installation of large sensors and antennas.
A project data system is located on the aircraft and provides aircraft data and video throughout the cabin. This system is also connected to two satellite constellations and provides uplink/downlink capability, internet access, flight tracking, and instant messaging between other aircraft and ground assets. Several sensors are connected to the project data system to provide meteorological and aircraft positional data to experimenters. An engineering data system is also integrated into the aircraft along with an air data boom to gather pertinent flight test data to determine effects of installations on the aircraft’s flight envelope.
The Aircraft Office is committed to providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective platforms for airborne research.
Page Last Updated: June 20, 2016
Page Editor: Mike Cropper
NASA Official: Bruce A. Tagg