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Airborne Science and Mission Support

Airborne Science Support

Project Participants (BAERI): Patrick Finch

Project Description

The goal of this task is to provide software support to the NASA Airborne Science Program.  There are currently three projects: (1) MTS (Mission Tools Software) Aircraft Tracking: The team has created and is maintaining and improving the software used as the back-end service to the Mission Tools Suite for tracking aircraft.  (2) MTS Network Infrastructure: The team is building out a Virtual Private Network to communicate directly with the FAA to affect the tracking of all civilian aircraft over the United States. This effort supplements the individual tracking of specific NASA assets by allowing NASA to track aircraft near its specific assets in real-time. Storing this data will allow users to see how air traffic and weather affect data collection missions. (3) Airborne Science Data Repository: The team is building a software and storage system to automate the task of uploading data from NASA Airborne Science facilities instruments. At present, all data must be QC’d, uploaded, and made available by hand. This software and storage system will reduce the amount of time between data collection and dissemination.


  • Deployed Iridium Extreme handsets for the MTS Aircraft Tracking project; thus, initial configurations are completed and any further development can be pushed to the platform remotely;
  • Made the initial VPN connection for the MTS Network Infrastructure project, so the data machine behind the VPN is live and accessing data. We are in the process of moving out of R&D to the FAA staging network and are using FAA data to track aircraft; and
  • Finished initial experimentation for the Airborne Science Data Repository, and a path forward has been identified to automate QC and file uploads.

Aircraft Remote Sensing

Project Participants (BAERI): Sreeja Nag, Karishma Inamdar

Project Description

The Communications and Navigation (CN) Team of NASA’s Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) manages a Traffic Management Project, also called UTM.  UTM is a NASA effort, entirely in the public and open-source domain, to enable Civilian Low-Altitude Airspace and Unmanned Aircraft System Operations.  These operations are very essential for high resolution airborne remote sensing.  Alongside many committed government, industry and academic partners, NASA is leading the research, development and testing that is taking place in a series of activities called “Technology Capability Levels (TCL),” each increasing in complexity.  Our role is to assist in research and development of TCL 2.  We will identify commercially available technologies for UAS-to-UAS and UAS-to-ground communication, compare them to one another quantitatively, help the team procure select technologies for laboratory testing and assist in ground testing.


  • Assisted the CN team in their holistic goal of setting CN requirements for UTM operations such that ground operators can monitor the state of their UAS and can be operated in a safe environment for remote sensing operations.

Meteorological Measurement Systems (MMS)

Project Participants (BAERI): Jon Dean-Day, Cecilia Chang

Project Description

The Meteorological Measurement System (MMS) provides in situ measurements of static pressure, static temperature, and 3-D winds on several NASA airborne research platforms, including the Global Hawk UAV, Sierra UAV, DC-8, ER-2, WB-57F, as well as the H211 Alpha Jet.  These measurements are useful to chemistry studies which rely on our basic state measurements to compute reaction rates of atmospheric pollutants, to microphysical studies which focus on the formation and growth of ice crystals in cirrus clouds, and large scale transport studies which rely on our data to initialize back trajectories.  The data are also useful for characterizing advection of pollutants in the planetary boundary layer and the structure and morphology of mesoscale waves which modulate the freeze-drying process of air rising through the tropical tropopause layer into the lower stratosphere.

The MMS is a fast-response (20Hz) system capable of measuring fine scales of turbulence, and thus is useful for computing fluxes of heat and momentum, as well as chemical contaminants when high-rate in situ chemistry instruments are also operating.  It is also highly accurate (P, T, and 3-D winds are accurate to +/- 0.3 hPa, 0.3K, and 1 m/s), making it superior to the usual “facility” type navigation instruments which may provide some similar data, but with much degraded accuracy and reliability.  Mr. Dean-Day’s research focuses on maintaining the scientific validity of the MMS data and in performing some basic research with the measurements as time and opportunity allow.


  • Monitored Alpha Jet MMS data quality and reviewed calibration procedures. Investigated sources of error in temperature probe data and GPS altitude accuracy.   Processed 1 Hz and 20Hz pressure, temperature and wind measurements for AJAX research flights; 
  • Calibrated and processes MMS data from the Volcano-plume Investigation Readiness and Gas-phase and Aerosol Sulfur (VIRGAS) mission based at Ellington Field, TX. Compared time delays of GPS measurements with C-MIGITS and RACAL data from SEAC4RS.  Calibrated MMS flight maneuvers.  Reprocessed and submitted final data for a portion of the mission for which air data measurement were available;
  • Co-authored the paper, “Ubiquitous Influence of Waves on Tropical High Cirrus Cloud” by J. Kim et al. Reviewed the manuscript, providing feedback and suggestions for improvement; 
  • Reviewed an existing temperature time delay algorithm for Global Hawk MMS data from ATTREX, for comparison with recent research for estimating the two time-constant delay in Rosemount temperature probe measurements.  Investigated small timing errors in attack angle measurements.  Re-processed 1 Hz and 20 Hz MMS data from ATTREX-2014/15 in order to remove time delay artifacts, improving vertical wind spectra during quiescent flight;
  • Continued DC-8 MMS preparation for the Atmospheric Tomography (ATom) project. Performed moist true air speed calculations using both simulated and SEAC4RS flight data to estimate changes to mixed layer temperatures and winds relative to dry air values.  Investigated utility of speed runs for data quality monitoring and calibration.  Developed plan for flight maneuvers and performed initial calibrations from field data during ATom-1; and
  • Provided data calibration and processing support during the NASA Pacific Oxidants, Sulfur, Ice, Dehydration and cONvection experiment (POSIDON).  Compared 858-y probe and flush differential pressure measurements to determine optimum flow angle values.  Provided code updates to utilize secondary measurements due to sensor failures.

Airborne Science Advanced Planning

Project Participants (BAERI): Susan Schoenung, Patrick Finch, Randy Berthold

Project Description

The Airborne Science Advanced Planning activity seeks to collect information on the needs of the NASA Earth Science community for support from NASA’s Airborne Science Program (ASP). ASP provides flight services for Earth Science using NASA aircraft platforms, both manned and unmanned, operating out a several NASA Centers. ASP also provides payload integration services and mission assistance including flight planning, data management, and communications.  To ensure that the right capabilities are available and will be available for future science activities, Advanced Planning maintains an out-year schedule of mission plans and the assets and services required. Information is gathered from NASA Earth Science program and from the science community through workshops, conferences, and ongoing interactions.


  • Updated the ASP 5-year plan, monthly, for ASP management;
  • Prepared a monthly map of all ESD airborne missions for ASP management;
  • Completed preliminary briefing: “Airborne Science Support for NASA Earth Science Satellite and International Space Station Missions”;
  • Prepared the ASP 2016 Annual Report and two semiannual newsletters; and
  • Participated in various science team meetings related to NASA Earth Science missions to gather airborne requirements data.

Earth Science Project Office (ESPO)

Project Participants (BAERI): Brad Bulger, Dan Chirica, Erin Justice, Quincy Allison, Sommer Beddingfield, Elizabeth Juvera

Project Description

The Ames Earth Science Project Office (ESPO) provides project management for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate field research.  ESPO provides planning, implementation, and post-mission support for large, complex, multi-agency, national and international field missions, especially, but not limited to, airborne missions.  ESPO has a long history of managing successful field missions, beginning in 1987 with the Stratosphere-Troposphere Exchange Project and the Airborne Antarctic O3 Expedition experiments. More recently, ESPO’s NASA customers have included the Atmospheric Chemistry and Modeling Analysis Program, the Tropospheric Chemistry Program, the Radiation Sciences Program, the Atmospheric Dynamics and Remote Sensing Program, the Airborne Science Program (ASP), and the EOS (Earth Observing System) Validation Program.  Each year, the ESPO team manages the deployment of between three and six major field missions and continues to provide support to the science team, airplane team, and the larger scientific community for previous years’ missions.  Finally, the ESPO team plays a critical role in planning for future missions, interfacing with NASA Headquarters, NASA and university scientists, crew members of airborne platforms, local support staff, and the larger scientific community.  The unique work done by the ESPO team makes NASA Earth Science Division’s (ESD’s) core mission of collecting earth science data from airborne platforms with global coverage possible.


  • Supported the following airborne missions under the ARC-CREST agreement*:
  • ATOM (Atmospheric Tomography Mission
  • KORUS-AQ (Korea – US Air Quality)
  • ORACLES (ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS)
  • OIB (Operation Ice Bridge)
  • POSIDON (Pacific Oxidants, Sulfur, Ice, Dehydration, and cONvection Experiment
  • SHOUT (Sending Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology)
  • Provided, for all missions, logistical support for the deployment, including: management of deployment sites (facilities, lodging, transport, customs); interface between mission managers, instrument teams, NASA Program Managers and aircraft crew members; coordination of all shipping of equipment and materials (NASA-ARC shipping, university shipping, freight forwarding, customs, local transportation); and deployment setup and on-site support for the duration of mission;
  • Managed, for all missions, the Science Operations Flight Request System or SOFRS. SOFRS manages and tracks the allocation of NASA’s fleet of scientific aircraft and sensors. In 2015, ESPO team members trained new team members on the management and administration of the system and upgraded the system to allow NASA Headquarters to use the flight request process for tracking of their aircraft use;
  • Provided, for select missions, additional and specialized support related to instrument integration and operation, data systems support, and communications support for mission teams.
  • Provided, for many missions, programming and IT support such as: in-field IT support for website, system and network setup, printer access, local ISPs, and user support for deployments; creation of new websites for missions beginning in 2015; improvement or additions to existing websites including ESPO, ESD, and ASP; maintenance of the ESPO Mission Database, ESPO Data Archive, and ESD Publications Database; maintenance of archives of all older websites; monitoring of internet technologies and security options for deployment sites; improvement of file sharing options for mission participants; and
  • Provided, for many of the missions, education, outreach, and communications support including: attendance at conferences, support for SAT communications between teachers and in-flight scientists; and support for open-house events at facilities hosting field deployments.

*The ESPO team supported additional missions through EVS-1 (Earth Venture Sub-orbital-1) and EVS-2 (Earth Venture Sub-orbital-2) projects that were not under the ARC-CREST agreement. These included: ATTREX, HS3, ORACLES, and ATom. Information about these missions can be found at

Meteorological Support

Project Participants (BAERI): Rei Ueyama

Project Description

The NASA‐ARC based Meteorological Support group provides meteorological and flight planning support for NASA airborne missions that mainly address upper tropospheric and lower stratospheric (UTLS) composition.  A successful field campaign requires a good understanding of the climatological mean and variability of relevant atmospheric fields (to select the most favorable time and location of the mission), an ability to quickly and comprehensively develop flight plans (to support effective data collection), a science team that is well informed of when and how meteorology can stymy aircraft operations (to facilitate smooth operation), and a detailed meteorological overview of the mission and knowledge of the origin and history of sampled air parcels (to maximize the scientific return from aircraft measurements).  Their work involves four tasks, which follow the time sequence of a typical field campaign from beginning to end: campaign conception and planning, detailed campaign preparation, in-field support, and post-campaign analysis.


  • Provided plots of meteorological analysis and forecast fields from NCEP GFS and NASA GEOS-5 model products;
  • Provided satellite (IR, visible, water vapor) imagery animations with planned and real-time flight tracks;
  • Managed the central meteorological support website with links to various sites useful for flight planning;
  • Produced convective influence forecast plots to determine target regions for sampling air parcels recently influenced by convection; and
  • Monitored the weather and development of deep convection along POSIDON flight tracks.

Selected Publications & Presentations:

Ueyama, R., E. Jensen, and L. Pfister. 2016. Convective influence on the lower stratospheric water vapor in the boreal summer monsoon regions, AMS Annual Meeting.

Ueyama, R., E. Jensen, and L. Pfister. 2016. Convective influence on the lower stratospheric water vapor in the boreal summer Asian monsoon regions, Workshop on Dynamics, Transport and Chemistry of the UTLS Asian Monsoon.

Ueyama, R., E. Jensen, L. Pfister, and M. Schoeberl. 2016. Convective influence on the lower stratospheric water vapor in the boreal summer Asian monsoon regions, Aura science team meeting.

Ueyama, R., E. Jensen, L. Pfister, and M. Schoeberl. 2016. Convective influence on the lower stratospheric water vapor in the boreal summer Asian monsoon regions, AGU Fall Meeting.

NSRC Mission Operations

Project Participants (BAERI): Melissa Yang, Adam Webster, David Van Gilst, Eric Stith, Sebastian Rainer, Kelly Edmond, Ryan Bennett, Steven Schill, Emily Schaller

Project Description

The National Suborbital Education and Research Center (NSRC) is a partner in the ARC-CREST cooperative agreement with NASA Ames Research Center. NSRC is responsible for two tasks for the Airborne Science Program: 

Task 1: Science Mission Operations and 

Task 2: Education and Training. 

In support of Task 1, NSRC addresses all data, SATCOM, engineering and maintenance needs for the following manned NASA airborne science platforms: DC-8, C-130, and the ER-2. In addition, in 2015 NSRC supported the following field missions: CalWater, ATV-5, OIB, HIWC, ATom, KORUS-AQ, ATTREX/CAST, PECAN, Keflavik Polar Winds, NAAMES, ACT-America, OLYMPEX, HsypIRI, SHOUT, and RADEX. Accomplishments related to specific airborne platforms are listed below. NSRC accomplishments specific to missions are discussed in their respective sections in this document. In support of Task 2, the NSRC team conducts education and training activities around select field missions. Separately, the NSRC team leads outreach program missions designed to build capacity with science students and teachers. 

In 2016, NSRC conducted the following education and training activities: SARP, ATTREX/CAST, OIB, NAAMES, outreach to K-12 science teachers, and general outreach. The latter two are described below. SARP and mission specific education and outreach are discussed in their respective sections.

DC-8 Specific Engineering and Data and Satcom System Accomplishments

  • Conducted extensive environmental testing of instrument components for the DC-8 aircraft as per Armstrong’s new regulations;
  • Began preliminary planning for the potential ECLIF mission;
  • Looked at the details of an avionics tray to accommodate a new TCAS electronics box for the DC-8;
  • Coordinated with Armstrong and QuickCrate to get some rack shipping crates made for the medium and low racks;
  • Created a new design for a replacement for the original composite radar altimeter antenna panel (which was delaminating), created a detail/assembly drawing to send to the shop for fabrication, and performed a structural analysis of the design;
  • Did a minor redesign of time server cooling fan installation to accommodate Meinberg time server;
  • Began work on a facility improvement project:
  • Installed new window clips for the DC-8 modified viewports that will seat the windows on the O-ring seals in the port;
  • Rebuilt and installed FalconView VM on server; and
  • Wired up the VectorNav and Serial Converter in the AIMMS-20 canister.

ER-2 Specific Engineering and Data and Satcom System Accomplishments

  • Configured real-time data API for all ER-2 campaigns for use on MTS and the Airborne Science tracker;
  • Designed a connector bracket for ER-2 Inmarsat router console connectors (VGA and USB), had them made, and reassembled the second canoe after successful electrical/operation checkout;
  • Provided backup data systems support;
  • Wrote software to facilitate HSRL using data from their instrument on the ER-2 and publishing it to MTS and for display on the P-3 for ORACLES;
  • Trained mission managers in the use of the data download laptop; and

Trained Caitlin Barnes (ASF) in the configuration of the data download laptop.

Specific Engineering and Data and Satcom System Accomplishments (P-3)

  • Reintegrated P-3 data system in new rack;
  • Reinstalled and verified facility instrumentation;
  • Updated systems software and firmware to catch up from re-wing period;
  • Installed new fast-syncing time server;
  • Integrated 10 instrument teams with real-time data streams; and
  • David Van Gilst traveled out to Waco, TX to check on housekeeping wiring in the P-3 to evaluate status of housekeeping wiring after re-wing. This allowed NSERC to be prepared for integration once the P-3 returned to WFF.

Specific Engineering and Data and Satcom System Accomplishments  (C-130 (436))

  • Designed and constructed new facility instrument suite to accommodate ACT-AMERICA Mission;
  • Augmented the Air Data System to meet ACT-America Mission Requirements;
  • Installed supplemental high precision transducers on copilot pitot-static system;
  • Installed supplemental Rosemount TAT with high precision digital signal conditioner;
  • Designed and processed calibration maneuvers;
  • Installed 3-Stage Hygrometer (This will need to be moved due to contamination from other air sources);
  • Sourced surplus APN-232 Radar Altimeter, allowing provision of radar altitude through the
  • full range of aircraft altitudes at approximately 10% of new cost;
  • Installed forward tracking camera;
  • Completed design of port for Nadir tracking camera;
  • Designed and constructed housekeeping data system, network, and Satcom facilities.
  • Implemented gigabit network in cooperation with Pinnacle;
  • Designed and constructed system patch panel for power control and signal concentration;
  • Designed and constructed wiring harnesses for interface to aircraft avionics and facility instrumentation;
  • Integrated NASDAT with aircraft systems and facility instrumentation;
  • Designed and implemented UPS backed DC power system allowing system to run on 400Hz power, stay up through power switch over and provide long-endurance support of aircraft GPS splitter;
  • Designed and implemented filtered GPS Network for housekeeping system and experimenter use;
  • Designed and implemented filtered Iridum antenna system for use with NASDAT.
  • Assembled the cockpit Ethernet switch installation and shipped it out to Andalusia with the GPS splitter and WiFi access point assemblies for installation on the aircraft;
  • Assembled the radar altimeter R/T adapter;
  • Fabricated misc. components for the shelf assemblies and built up the main data system component shelves; and
  • David Van Gilst traveled out to Andulusia, AL, to install antenna and instrument wiring harnesses on the C130 (436);
  • Integrated LN251 into N439NA Data System;
  • Designed and constructed wiring harnesses, patch panel and system interfaces;
  • Developed software to drive the LN251 startup sequence, diagnose faults and distribute data to the NASDAT and other data system components;
  • Developed software to facilitate transfer of satellite data and quick look products without disrupting IRC/xChat communications;
  • Mount permanently remaining data system components (UPS, AIS, Network Switch).
  • Integrated NAAMES Payload with C-130 Data System; and
  • Created a simple blank off plate design for the 102 TAT probes, so that the aircraft can fly without them, if needed.

Overall ASP Development Work (Total Air Temperature Measurement)

  • Finalized the details for the pressure bulkhead connector pass-through for the new DC-8 TAT sensor wiring;
  • Finalized the TAT sensor signal conditioner mechanical design assembly/installation, ordered parts, coordinated with the shop for fabrication, and assembled the box.  The TAT sensor on the DC-8 worked well in KORUS-AQ. The design assembly/ installation was completed prior to deployment with the build-up of the new TAT sensor signal conditioner mechanical assembly;
  • Continued work on TAT signal conditioner software;
  • High-accuracy digital signal capture system based on Laurel Electronics resistance transmitter
  • Completed thermal stability testing at AFRC Environmental Lab;
  • Completed Packaging and Heating system design; and
  • Anticipated reduction of signal capture error by 50-60%;
  • Reduced TAT error from ~ 1°C to .2 – .3 °C.
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