SAN DIEGO, May 15, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center and Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) have reached an agreement that will enable NASA's Science Mission Directorate to conduct Earth science research with the Northrop Grumman-developed RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

Under the Space Act Agreement signed April 30, NASA and Northrop Grumman will bring to flight in 2009 two pre-production Global Hawk aircraft that were recently transferred to NASA. Northrop Grumman will share in their use to conduct its own flight demonstrations for expanded markets, missions and airborne capabilities, including integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace.

The two Global Hawk aircraft, among the first seven built during the original Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-sponsored Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program, were transferred to NASA Dryden from the U.S. Air Force in September 2007. NASA acquired the two aircraft for research activities supporting its airborne environmental science program.

"This innovative partnership not only provides for the activation of the Global Hawk flight operations at NASA Dryden, but also sets the stage for an exciting future of collaborative science missions and technology experiments," said Kevin L. Petersen, NASA Dryden director. "The capabilities of this platform are unique and will provide NASA and Northrop Grumman some exceptional opportunities to advance technology and science through flight."

As the world's first fully autonomous, high-altitude, long-endurance UAS, Global Hawk can fly at altitudes up to 65,000 feet for more than 31 hours at a time. Global Hawk is supporting the Air Force in the global war on terrorism, providing persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to warfighters. To date, Global Hawks have flown more than 22,000 hours.

"Global Hawk's range, endurance and altitude make it particularly suited to a broad range of applications," said Corey Moore, sector vice president of Advanced Concepts and Integrated Solutions for Northrop Grumman. "Access to two flight demonstration vehicles will allow us to more fully explore new potential missions for this remarkable system."

Global Hawk has many potential applications for the advancement of science, improvement of hurricane monitoring techniques, development of disaster support capabilities and development of advanced UAS technologies. In October 2007, Air Force Global Hawks were used to monitor wildfires in Southern California.

The Dryden Flight Research Center, located on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is NASA's primary installation for atmospheric flight research and operations. The center is involved in all four of the agency's primary missions - space exploration, space operations, scientific discovery, and aeronautical research and development. For more information about NASA Dryden and its research projects, visit:

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.


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  CONTACT: Jim Hart 
         Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
         (310) 331-3616

         Beth Hagenauer
         NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
         (661) 276-7960