European Facility For Airborne Research

European Facility For Airborne Research Aug. 10, 2022, 05:02

Stratospheric Aircraft


The use of stratospheric aircraft have been successful in the last 15 years in terms of technical developments, achieved scientific results in various fields and community-building, and important scientific topics in atmospheric and climate research have been identified for the short- and midterm future which require the use of a high-altitude carrier with a ceiling higher than 15 km.

Therefore, the availability of a stratospheric aircraft in the future is important to fill in the gap in this area of research. Based on the existing solutions, we give the following recommendations for future stratospheric aircraft:

  • The operation of a high-altitude aircraft is cost intensive as only special aircraft types can be used. We recommend a European approach, may be with support from one or more member sates, to make such aircraft available for European scientific community.
  • For campaign-based operations in the coming 5-10 years, an aircraft such as the Geophysica, the ER-2 and WB57 are required. Due to limited ceiling and payload capacity, the Egrett is suited only for a small part of the identified measurement tasks.
  • The Geophysica is the only aircraft that enables the European community to carry-out larger research programmes already in the next few years, provided that funding for the required overhaul can be allocated (several M€) and a new MoU will be agreed upon.
  • German institutes under the lead of FZJ currently negotiate such an agreement with MDB. The advantage is that the comprehensive existing and certified payload can be used, and only integration of a few new instruments would be required. Thus, highest priority should be give to keep the Geophysica in service for European research.
  • If this is possible, the Geophysica should be included in a new EUFAR project as part of the fleet for TA.
  • The ER-2 and WB57 may serve as an alternative in case that the Geophysica is not available. WB57, however, is already heavily booked for the coming years. Operation costs of the ER-2 are lower, that of the WB57 are almost the same as for the Geophysica. An agreement with NASA has to be negotiated, preferably by a research organisation in Europe.
  • However, a European payload would have to be developed (or at least adapted from other research aircraft) and certified for the ER-2/WB57 which would require funding of several M€ and several years of work. If the ER-2/WB57 are considered as an option, a supporting programme granting such costs (new EUFAR Joint Research Activity for example) is required, as many bodies, in particular Universities and partners from several countries, would not be able to provide instruments for such an aircraft.
  • The Global Hawk stratospheric UAV provides the opportunity for new research fields and is thus an innovative carrier in which the European science community expressed its high interest. Italy and the U.K agreed to collaborate with NASA, and it would be desirable to extend these options to other EU countries and to a wider community. The use of the Global Hawk also requires an instrument development programme and thus aims for projects spanning several years (also depending on U.S. programmes).

There are currently three stratospheric airborne platforms available to the European science community. Click here, for more information.

Page last modified on Sept. 12, 2017, 10:46
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