The program in which the aircraft will be used is called Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, a study of the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean.
"The high-altitude and long-duration capabilities of NASA's Global Hawks allow HS3 to sample storms virtually anywhere in the Atlantic and for durations up to three times that of conventional aircraft," said principal investigator Scott Braun of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
"Being able to stay over a storm for 15 or more hours allows us to observe storms in ways that were simply not possible before."
Boeing said Global Hawk's ability to fly as high as 65,000 feet for periods of up to 30 hours provides the science community the opportunity to explore remote areas of the Earth's atmosphere. Also, the aircraft allows for modification with varying scientific instruments for different types of science missions.
Two flight tests were conducted by one of the NASA Global Hawks. The first took place on Sept. 8-9, a 24-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean. The second was Sept. 13-14, a 19.5-hour flight over the Gulf of Mexico.
Data were collected from three scientific instruments aboard the Global Hawk: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Airborne Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System, the University of Wisconsin's Scanning High-Resolution Interferometer Sounder, and the High Altitude Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit Sounding Radiometer.