Science Operations Flight Request System (SOFRS)

Accessing NASA Airborne Science Platforms and Instruments

The Airborne Science Program (ASP) maintains aircraft and sensor assets to support the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). The Science Operations Flight Request System (SOFRS) manages and tracks the allocation of the ASP aircraft and facility sensors. The aircraft (platform) as well as facility sensor (instrumentation) information is accessible through the Airborne Science Program website.

Requests for scheduling these assets shall be submitted through SOFRS. This system was designed to allow researchers to have access to unique NASA aircraft, as well as some commercial aircraft with which NASA has made contracting arrangements.

The only way to schedule the use of NASA SMD platforms and instrument assets is to submit a Flight Request through SOFRS.

Click above for step by step instructions for submitting a Flight Request 

User Fees

The assets of the program are available on a fee-for-service basis, although, because the SMD maintains a base capability, only the marginal cost of the actual missions are borne by experiments given NASA HQ science concurrence. User fees are based on the flight hour cost (e.g. pilots, in-flight engineer, fuel, etc..), mission-specific costs (engineering and deployment costs) and any ancillary support costs (satellite communication requirements, facility instrument data and operations costs).


The NASA HQ science concurrence is provided by the manager of the NASA Research Program under which the grant or contract is issued. User fees are paid by the investigator's funding source’s or directly from the investigator's grant funds.

Flight Requests for non-SMD investigators will be approved on a case-by-case basis. Flight Requests that do not benefit NASA or SMD research objectives will not be sponsored by the SMD program and must pay for the facilities under a full-cost reimbursable basis and, in addition, must demonstrate that the NASA SMD facilities provide a unique capability that is not available through commercial sources.

Any airborne science experiment using NASA assets, personnel, facilities, instruments or funds, must have a safety review to be in compliance with NASA Procedural Requirement 7900.3D. The submittal of a Flight Request notifies the proper NASA Center aircraft operations groups of the experiment and therefore, the need for the required reviews.

Mishap Preparedness and Contingency Plan

In addition to ensuring the proper 7900.3 airworthiness review is conducted, all Earth Science airborne activities shall ensure compliance with NASA Procedural Requirements for Mishap and Close Call Reporting, Investigating, and Recordkeeping (NPR 8621.1 current edition).  Per paragraph 2.4.2 of NPR 8621.1, all aircraft operations mishaps and close calls designated high-visibility, Type A, or Type B shall be reported to the ASP Director and the cognizant Program Scientist (PS) within 24 hours.  The ASP Director and PS will then notify ESD leadership within 24 hours of their notification.

Flight Reports

Flight reports are required after each airborne science flight.  The aircraft leads will submit them for the core NASA aircraft but for “other” aircraft; this responsibility falls on the PI or author of the flight request.

Call Letter

NASA SMD issues an annual call for Flight Requests approximately 4 months before the beginning of the fiscal year, usually in June, with submittals due Oct 1. In most cases, requests are evaluated, approved and the assets are scheduled for the year within the first quarter of the fiscal year.  Therefore, Flight Requests submitted later in the year are filled only if assets are still available.

If you have any questions, please contact the SOFRS curators:
Vidal Salazar, Sommer Nicholas, and Stevie Phothisane (