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NASA Airborne Mission Tools Suite to Support a Variety of NOAA and NASA Missions, Including Cyclone and Hurricane Research
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NASA Airborne Mission Tools Suite to Support a Variety of NOAA and NASA Missions, Including Cyclone and Hurricane Research

The NASA Airborne Mission Tools Suite (MTS) will be used by both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA in a variety of upcoming mission operations and research efforts. MTS will support NOAA’s Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology (SHOUT) program and Tropical Cyclone Initiative (TCI). SHOUT will use advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), such as the Global Hawk, to sense high-impact weather-related hazards. TCI is a Naval Research Laboratory-led mission that will use one of NASA's WB-57 aircraft to conduct research to improve the prediction of tropical cyclone intensity and structural change. The first two Global Hawk SHOUT research flights took place this past week, the second of which coordinated with other NOAA aircraft in the TCI.

NOAA has also been using MTS to track and research hurricanes. NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division (HRD) uses the data gathered from research aircraft to advance the understanding and prediction of hurricanes and other tropical weather. Currently, MTS is monitoring both hurricanes Danny and Erika as they approach the eastern seaboard and the Caribbean. An MTS image of Danny can be seen here:

https://twitter.com/hrd_aoml_noaa/status/634776361689874432

Airborne missions will employ MTS for planning, real-time mission monitoring, and situational awareness. This may include real-time aircraft status tracking, satellite imagery, RADAR, and other operational products. MTS is also used to support mission science planning, mission communication, and collaboration.

The High Ice Water Content (HIWC) mission, which is an Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) mission using a DC-8 aircraft to help improve aviation safety by studying high-altitude ice crystals during a flight campaign, is another mission MTS is simultaneously supporting. Due to the proximity of the storm to Florida, the DC-8 has been flying out of Fort Lauderdale and coordinating with SHOUT. This November, MTS will also be used to support a joint mission called the OLYMPic mountain EXperiment (OLYMPEX)/ RAdar Definition EXperiment (RADEX), which will use the Airborne Science Program’s ER-2 and DC-8 aircraft in concert with the University of North Dakota’s Citation research aircraft. OLYMPEX/RADEX will attempt to validate rain and snow measurements in mid-latitude frontal systems moving from ocean to coast to mountains, and to determine how remotely-sensed measurements of precipitation by the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) program can be applied to a range of hydrologic weather forecasting and climate data.

BACKGROUND: MTS supports tactical decision-making and distributed team situational awareness during airborne science field campaigns, facilitates team communication and collaboration throughout a mission lifecycle, and consumes and produces visualization products that can be viewed in conjunction with the real-time position of aircraft, airborne instrument status data, and satellite and model products. MTS represents the ground complement to the NASA SensorNet project, which is developing the airborne networking infrastructure to enable satellite communication of aircraft parameter and instrument data during flight missions. Taken together, the intent of the system is to encourage more responsive and collaborative measurements between instruments on multiple aircraft, satellites, and on the surface in order to increase the scientific value of measurements and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of flight missions. MTS further provides solutions for customized meteorological and instrument visualization products and integrated tools for education and public outreach activities, such as the Mission Tools Suite for Education (MTSE).

PROGRAM FUNDING: Airborne Science Program, Science Mission Directorate (SMD)

TEAM: Aaron Duley (Project Lead), Sandy Johan, Patrick Finch Palmdale, Eugene Turkov, and David Van Gilst; Project and Program Support: Matthew Fladeland; Participating Groups: National Suborbital Education and Research Center (NSERC)

POC: Aaron Duley, aaron.r.duley@nasa.gov

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