Call letter: Appendix B

Appendix B

Budgeting for an Airborne Science Mission 

Update: June 29, 2022

Airborne Science Mission Costs

In addition to the usage-based flight hour costs (personnel, fuel, and aircraft operations), additional Mission Peculiar Costs (MPCs) may be included in the Flight Request cost estimate.  These include, aircraft integration, aircraft MPCs, the Airborne Sensor Facility (ASF), and National Suborbital Research Center (NSRC) MPCs, and SATCOM MPCs. Please discuss the applicability of any relevant costs with the aircraft manager.

Aircraft Integration

If an instrument has not yet flown on an aircraft or the instrument(s) require(s) significant effort to integrate into the aircraft, “integration fees” will be assessed. 

Aircraft MPCs

MPCs include general deployment costs, overtime and personnel augmentation costs, and aircraft support costs. 

The National Suborbital Research Center (NSRC) NSRC provides payload support for Earth science research campaigns conducted by the NASA Airborne Science Program.  Support services include payload integration engineering, support for a suite of metrological and aircraft state measurements, and an onboard data system providing onboard networking, data telemetry and a package of situational awareness and communications tools.  Supported platforms include the NASA DC-8, P-3B, C-130s, ER-2s and others as required.

  • Engineering design/analysis of instrument and probe installations
  • Instrument Integration support
  • Measurement of aircraft state and meteorological parameters, with both real-time and post-mission quality controlled data sets provided.
  • Onboard network and timing services.
  • Onboard video recording and distribution, with ground telemetry available upon request.
  • Real-Time Aircraft to Ground and Aircraft to Aircraft text communication (X-Chat)
  • Aircraft to Ground and Aircraft to Aircraft data telemetry.
  • Support for a common Web-based Data API, providing access to instrument data onboard and over the internet using common software, including real-time merged datasets.  
  • Support for high and low bandwidth satellite communication (Iridium and Inmarsat) with standard end-user interfaces.
NSRC Facility instrumentation:
  • Precision Position and Orientation Systems
  • Total Air Temperature Probes
  • IR Surface Temperature Pyrometers
  • IR Camera Pod, providing Forward and Nadir Flir IR with overlapping Visible camera.
  • Dew Point Hygrometers
  • Air Data, 2D Wind Measurements
  • Ice Detector
  • 4K Video Cameras

Both the ASF and the NSRC services will be charged to relevant FRs as an MPC.

Satellite Communication (SATCOM) MPCs

Satellite communications systems of various types are now installed on most of the Airborne Science Program (ASP) supported platforms. The tools referenced below are provided to assist in the development of requirements and for general SATCOM cost reference. After reviewing the SATCOM Requirements and Costing pages in the PI Support section of the ASP website, investigators should discuss their requirements with the aircraft manager. The relevant SATCOM lead will be responsible for providing the aircraft manager with the final estimate to be included in the flight request.

Please note that the ASP management would like to flight-track non-NASA aircraft (using NASA instrumentation, funding or personnel) during their missions.  Flight-tracking devices and support are available from ASP for that purpose.
Iridium sat-phone modems, with data rates up to 9.6Kb/sec, are standard equipment on the DC-8, ER-2, P-3 aircraft and the Gulfstream V. These are included in the new NASDAT (NASA Airborne Science Data and Telemetry system) navigation data recorders. Payload use of the Iridium service through the NASDATs is available globally and is provided as part of the flight hour cost of the platform. INMARSAT BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) airborne sat-com terminals supporting up to 432Kb/sec duplex data rates, are installed on the DC-8, the P-3, WB-57F, ER-2 and the Gulfstream V. An INMARSAT Requirements document and preliminary estimating worksheet may be found here
The WB-57F include a Ku-band sat-com system (data rates in excess of 1Mb/sec) as standard mission equipment. Use of either BGAN or Ku systems are quoted as a SATCOM MPC to the Investigator in the FR. It should be noted that BGAN and Ku-Band service degrades rapidly at latitudes above ~70 degrees. Ku contracts are month long and vary based on coverage location and the current contract pricing. Sample Ku costs by region can be found in this website.