GREENBELT, Md., April 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. space agency says its unpiloted aircraft called Global Hawk has successfully completed its first science flight over the Pacific Ocean.
NASA said the flight was the first of five scheduled for the Pacific, or GloPac, mission to study atmospheric science over the Pacific and Arctic oceans.
"The Global Hawk is a robotic plane that can fly autonomously to altitudes above 60,000 feet -- roughly twice as high as a commercial airliner -- and as far as 11,000 nautical miles, which is half the circumference of Earth," NASA said. "Operators pre-program a flight path, then the plane flies itself for as long as 30 hours, staying in contact through satellite and line-of-site communications links to a ground control station at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California's Mojave Desert."
The co-mission scientist for GloPac Paul Newman at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said the Global Hawk is a revolutionary aircraft.
"No other science platform provides the range and time to sample rapidly evolving atmospheric phenomena," Newman said. "This mission is our first opportunity to demonstrate the unique capabilities of this plane, while gathering atmospheric data in a region that is poorly sampled."
The plane carries 11 instruments to sample the chemical composition of the troposphere and stratosphere.
The mission is a joint project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.