Northrop Grumman and NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center have renewed their Space Act Agreement to continue joint earth science missions and flight tests with the company’s Global Hawk unmanned aircraft.
Both organizations will continue to jointly use and fund the Global Hawks until April 30, 2018 to monitor hurricanes, study the atmosphere and explore new space missions, Northrop said Thursday.
Global Hawks is designed to fly at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet for 30 hours from Dryden in Southern California to the North Pole, with up to seven hours of standby before returning to Dryden.
Last January, a Global Hawk collected atmospheric data to help scientists identify the atmosphere's components that affect the climate.
Environmental scientists used the aircraft in fall 2012 to study how hurricanes form in the Atlantic Ocean and intensify.
A Global Hawk flew over the Pacific and Arctic oceans in spring 2011 to observe the causes of West Coast flooding and soared between 45,000 and 65,000 feet over the Pacific later that year to collect climate change data.
The aircraft also helped monitor hurricane intensity changes during five storms in the southern Caribbean Sea and western Atlantic Ocean in September 2010 and supported an atmospheric research mission over the Pacific and Arctic Oceans in April that year.