From idea to project launch

Centre stage
Cen­tre stage
Image 1/3, Credit: DLR/A. Minikin

Centre stage

The new HA­LO (High Al­ti­tude and Long Range Re­search Air­craft) re­search air­craft her­alds a new chap­ter in the his­to­ry of Ger­man at­mo­spher­ic re­search and Earth ob­ser­va­tion. HA­LO is based on a Gulf­stream G 550 ul­tra-long range busi­ness jet. The com­bi­na­tion of range, cruis­ing al­ti­tude, pay­load and com­pre­hen­sive in­stru­men­ta­tion make the air­craft a glob­al­ly unique re­search plat­form.
HALO in flight
HA­LO in flight in 2009
Image 2/3, Credit: Aero-Art Frank Herzog.

HALO in flight in 2009

HA­LO is 31 me­tres long - 1.6 me­tres ac­count for the nose probe. It has a height of 7.9 me­tres and a wingspan of 28.5 me­tres.
HALO during its landing approach
HA­LO dur­ing its land­ing ap­proach
Image 3/3, Credit: DLR/A. Minikin.

HALO during its landing approach

The high-al­ti­tude re­search air­craft HA­LO (High Al­ti­tude and Long Range Re­search Air­craft): The mod­i­fied busi­ness jet, a Gulf­stream G 550, land­ed on 21 Jan­uary 2009 at its home air­field in Oberp­faf­fen­hofen.

The need for a high-altitude long-range research aircraft was first established in the 1980s. At that time, few aircraft for high altitude experiments were available in Europe; notable among them, DLR's Falcon 20-E. In the year 2000, representatives of major German research institutes in the atmospheric and climate research sectors came together to develop a concept for future atmospheric research using aircraft. The result was a unanimous vote for a high altitude aircraft with a long range and large payload capacity.

In 2001, the Max Planck Society and DLR, on behalf of over 30 research institutes in Germany, submitted a proposal for such an aircraft to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung; BMBF). In the subsequent review of the project by a science council appointed by the German federal and state governments, HALO was categorised as worthy of unrestricted support. In the autumn of 2004, representatives of the BMBF, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Max Planck Society, the Jülich Research Centre, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, DLR and the Free State of Bavaria agreed to jointly finance the construction of the HALO research aircraft. This opened the way for the delivery of HALO. In February 2005, DLR and the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation signed a contract to jointly finance the construction of the HALO research aircraft.

The route to the first missions

HALO is based on the Gulfstream G550 ultra long-range business jet. With a range of well over 8000 kilometres, HALO is capable of taking measurements on a continental scale. Any region from the poles to the tropics and remote areas of the Pacific can be reached with this research aircraft. The maximum flight altitude of over 15 kilometres also enables measurements to be taken in the lower stratosphere, outside of the tropics. There are more than twice as many instruments on board HALO as in the DLR Falcon 20-E research aircraft, enabling a substantially more comprehensive investigation of complex atmospheric processes. In total, the payload mass is around three tons.

However, extensive reconstruction, modification, testing and flight tests were first needed to turn the business jet into a high-performance research aircraft. HALO's fuselage resembles Swiss cheese; there are numerous possible mounting positions for air inlets and outlets of the measurement instruments, as well as windows to allow for the use of remote sensing equipment from inside the cabin. A special power supply enables the use of equipment both inside and outside the cabin. Up to 15 universal racks for scientific instruments can be installed in the cabin. Additional containers for scientific instruments can be attached under the fuselage and under the wings. A specially developed sensor system and permanently installed data acquisition and processing system also provide researchers with basic data on the atmosphere and the aircraft itself during a flight.

HALO was handed over to DLR in January 2009. The DLR Flight Facility in Oberpfaffenhofen, operator of the largest civilian research aircraft fleet in Europe, operates HALO. A fixed allocation of flying hours is funded by the HALO consortium for research flight operations, and the hours are allocated each year via a proposal submission process. A scientific steering committee bases the order of proposed missions on scientific criteria. HALO started work in autumn 2010 with a selection of measuring instruments from various partners, carrying out test flights as part of a 'techno-mission'. In the spring of 2012, the research aircraft took off on its first scientific mission, following many hours of flight-testing.

  • Falk Dambowsky
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3959
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
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