Last year, the U.S. Air Force transferred two of its Northrop Grumman Global Hawks to NASA to be used as airborne science assets. On Jan. 15, NASA will roll those two big UAVs out of the hangar and re-introduce them to the public as NASA unmanned high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft.
(photo from NASA)
The Earth Science Division of the agency's Science Mission Directorate is the primary sponsor for the NASA Global Hawk Project. The two aircraft it will fly are the first and sixth built under the original development program sponsored by DARPA. The Earth Science Division is developing plans to use the Global Hawks for observation of climate, environmental processes and major storm events around the world.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is collaborating with NASA to develop, plan and demonstrate a variety of Earth science missions as well.
NASA and Northrop Grumman signed a Space Act Agreement in April 2008 and are preparing the two NASA Global Hawks for flight in the spring of 2009. The partnership allows Northrop Grumman to share use of the aircraft to conduct flight demonstrations for expanded markets, missions and airborne capabilities, including integration of unmanned systems into the national airspace.