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 Sensor Integrated Environmental Remote Research Aircraft (SIERRA) is a medium-class, unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that can perform remote sensing and atmospheric sampling missions in isolated and often inaccessible regions, such as over mountain ranges, the open ocean, or the Arctic/Antarctic. UAS missions are of particular value when long flight durations or range-measurement requirements preclude a human pilot or where remote or harsh conditions place pilots and high-value aircraft at risk. Designed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and developed at NASA's Ames Research Center, the SIERRA is well suited for precise and accurate data collection missions because it is large enough to carry up to 100 pounds of scientific instruments for up to 600 miles yet small enough not to require a large runway or hangar.
The SIERRA Program, managed at NASA's Ames Research Center, is focused on providing end-to-end support for UAS flight missions in support of Earth science research and applications activities. The program has capabilities to support all phases of UAS missions, including experiment design, requirements definition, payload integration design and support, airworthiness and flight safety reviews, airspace access including COA development, deployment planning, mission planning and flight operations.
The final flight of SIERRA took place on July 26, 2013. While conducting a sea ice survey off the N. Slope of Alaska for the MIZOPEX mission, the SIERRA lost engine power and glided into the water approximately 40 miles north of Oliktok Point.
Page Last Updated: December 30, 2016
Page Editor: Sommer Beddingfield
NASA Official: Bruce A. Tagg