Return to Flight

The first of two former Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft converted for environmental science research for NASA made its maiden voyage, a four-hour checkout flight, on Oct. 23 over the skies of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California. “This is the future,” said Paul Newman, a NASA project scientist, in a Northrop release that same day. He added, “We are taking the first steps into making scientific measurements with an unmanned system—a hybrid of a satellite and an aircraft.” NASA plans its first RQ-4 mission early next year called Global Hawk Pacific, or “GloPac.” One of the air vehicles will be fitted with 11 scientific instruments to collect atmospheric data while flying through the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere and validate data from NASA’s AURA science satellite.