A milestone for atmospheric research and earth observation with aircraft
HALO – High Altitude and Long Range Research Aircraft – the latest member in the research fleet of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) landed at Oberpfaffenhofen research airport on 24 January 2009. The aircraft, a Gulfstream G550, has been converted into one of the world’s most state-of-the-art research aircraft for climate and atmospheric research. After an approximately nine-hour ferry flight from Gulfstream’s manufacturing facility in Savannah in the US, HALO touched down on the landing strip of its new home airport shortly after 10am.
With its range of up to 8 000 kilometres and ceiling of 15.5 kilometres, the new research aircraft can carry a scientific payload of up to three tonnes to areas above the ocean which could not be reached before, or to the polar regions. HALO thus in many respects outperforms the Falcon 20E, the atmospheric research aircraft deployed by DLR until now, and it opens up new opportunities for researchers.
Even before HALO's final commissioning, more than 50 mission proposals have been put forth. Ten of these will be selected as so-called demonstration missions. The first scientific flights are scheduled to take place from summer 2009. These will focus on the oxidising power of the troposphere (OMO), as well as on the influence of air traffic on the formation of ice clouds (ML-CIRRUS). OMO will be coordinated by the Max-Planck-Institut for Chemie and by the Forschungszentrum Jülich. The DLR Institut für Atmosphärenphysik will coordinate ML-CIRRUS.
And now that HALO has arrived, its first few months in Oberpfaffenhofen will look like this: First, a series of additional, permanently integrated sensors will be installed in the aircraft, as well as a versatile data acquisition system. These new components, together with the belly pods and wing stores, will then be tried and tested in different mounting configurations during a series of rigorous flight test programmes, after which they can be formally accepted by DLR's Design Organisation (Entwicklungsbetrieb) in conjunction with the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (German Federal Office of Aviation).