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NASA, Northrop Grumman Announce Initial Flight of Global Hawk Unmanned System for Environmental Science Research

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Oct. 23, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- NASA and Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) today announced the initial flight of a Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to be used for environmental science research.

Photos are available at http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/multimedia/imagegallery/Global_Hawk/index.html

NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center and Northrop Grumman are returning NASA's two Global Hawk aircraft to flight under a Space Act Agreement signed in 2008. The two aircraft were among the seven Global Hawk vehicles built and flown in the original Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The aircraft that flew today last took to the skies in May 2003.

Today's approximately four-hour flight at NASA Dryden included checkout of aircraft systems, including engine, flight controls and communication. The flight also included demonstration of key features of a new ground control segment that introduces Northrop Grumman's common mission management system architecture. This architecture could serve as the baseline for efforts to support the U.S. Department of Defense common ground station initiative and future unmanned systems.

The first Earth science mission will be the joint NASA-NOAA Global Hawk Pacific, or GloPac. This campaign will consist of six long-duration missions over the Pacific and Arctic regions scheduled to begin in early 2010. Eleven NASA and NOAA scientific instruments integrated into one of NASA's Global Hawk aircraft will collect atmospheric data while flying through the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. The primary science objective of the mission is to perform calibration of instruments and validation of data from the AURA satellite, one of NASA's 15 science satellites currently observing the Earth.

"This is the future," said Paul Newman, project scientist for the GloPac mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "We are taking the first steps into making scientific measurements with an unmanned system -- a hybrid of a satellite and an aircraft."

"Northrop Grumman looks forward to the first GloPac flight, which will herald yet another application of Global Hawk's remarkable capabilities," said Corey Moore, vice president of Advanced Concepts-Air and Land Systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "In addition to its support of the U.S. Air Force in the war against terrorism, Global Hawk has been used to help monitor wildfires in California and for hurricane relief efforts along the Gulf Coast."

The two NASA Global Hawk aircraft were transferred to NASA Dryden by the U.S. Air Force in 2007. NASA announced plans to use them for missions supporting its Science Mission Directorate and the Earth science community that require high-altitude, long-endurance, long-distance airborne capability.

Northrop Grumman will share in use of the aircraft to conduct its own flight demonstrations for expanded markets, missions and airborne capabilities, including UAS integration into national airspace.

Global Hawk can fly at altitudes up to more than 60,000 feet for more than 30 hours at a time. In support of the Air Force, the system provides persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to warfighters. To date, Global Hawks have flown more than 35,000 hours.

Global Hawk also 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.

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

CONTACT:  Jim Hart
          Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
          (310) 466-5509 
          james.f.hart@ngc.com

          Gemma Loochkartt
          Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
          (858) 335-0694
          gemma.loochkartt@ngc.com