SAN DIEGO, Oct. 24, 2011 -- Environmental scientists will utilize the Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) -built unmanned NASA Global Hawks as part of the multi-year Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3), a study of the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean.

"The high-altitude and long-duration capabilities of NASA's Global Hawks allow HS3 to sample storms virtually anywhere in the Atlantic and for durations up to three times that of conventional aircraft," said principal investigator Scott Braun of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Being able to stay over a storm for 15 or more hours allows us to observe storms in ways that were simply not possible before."

Environmental scientists came together to embark upon a multi-year airborne science investigation of hurricane formation and intensification - or HS3. The scientists prepared for their investigation at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"Global Hawk's ability to fly as high as 65,000 feet for periods of up to 30 hours provides the science community the opportunity to explore remote areas of the Earth's atmosphere," said Scott Winship, advanced concepts vice president, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "Additionally, Global Hawk's flexible and mature design allows for modifying the aircraft with varying scientific instruments for different types of science missions."

Two flight tests were conducted by one of the NASA Global Hawks. The first took place on Sept. 8-9, a 24 hour flight over the Pacific Ocean and the second on Sept. 13-14, a 19.5 hour flight over the Gulf of Mexico. Data were collected from three scientific instruments aboard the Global Hawk: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Airborne Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (dropsonde), the University of Wisconsin's Scanning High-Resolution Interferometer Sounder (S-HIS), and the High Altitude Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR.)

NOAA's dropsonde dispenser is located in the tail of the Global Hawk. The dropsondes are released from the aircraft into the atmosphere to collect data as it falls to the ground or ocean. The S-HIS mounted in the Global Hawk's belly takes measurements of the atmosphere's temperature and water vapor profiles. HAMSR provides measurements that are used to determine the 3-D distribution of temperature, water vapor, and cloud-liquid water in the atmosphere.

In 2010, a NASA Global Hawk flew over the Pacific Ocean as part of the Global Hawk Pacific campaign, operating over the Equator to the North Pole. Later that year, the aircraft was used in the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes, hurricane surveillance missions which provided extended coverage monitoring changes in hurricane intensity during five different storms in the southern Caribbean and western Atlantic. In February-March 2011, NASA flew an atmospheric science payload suite on long duration Global Hawk flights over winter storms in the Pacific and Arctic under a project called Winter Storms and Pacific Atmospheric Rivers.Â

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