The NASA Airborne Science ER-2 aircraft on takeoff.

The NASA Airborne Science ER-2 aircraft on takeoff.

The Airborne Science Program (ASP) within the Earth Science Division is responsible for providing aircraft systems that further science and advance the use of satellite data. The primary objectives of this program are:

  • Satellite Calibration and Validation

Provide platforms to enable essential calibration measurements for the Earth observing satellites, and the validation of data retrieval algorithms.

  • Support New Sensor Development

Provide aircraft flight opportunities to test and refine new instrument technologies/algorithms, and reduce risk prior to committing sensors for launch into space.

  • Process Studies

Obtain high-resolution temporal and spatial measurements of complex local processes, which can be coupled to global satellite observations for a better understanding of the complete Earth system.

  • Develop the Next-Generation of Scientists and Engineers

Foster the development of our future workforce with the hands-on involvement of students and young scientists/engineers in all aspects of ongoing Earth science investigations.

To meet these observing objectives ASP maintains and operates a suite of sustained, ongoing platforms and science support sensors on which investigators can rely from year to year. From these known capabilities the Science Mission Directorate can develop observing strategies.

For the purposes of Disaster Response, the NASA Airborne Science Program’s (ASP) capabilities provide a potential flexible/tailorable response option.  An inherent characteristic of aircraft is their payload flexibility and ability to modify flight trajectory and timing.  Although the ASP is primarily designed to support planned research and technology efforts and not specific routine operations, at any given time, an aircraft may be appropriately configured and available to support a disaster response request.  Earth Science Division Facility Sensors are managed by various ESD Program Scientists, not the ASP, but access to both the aircraft and facility sensors is accomplished through the Science Operations Flight Request System at  The Airborne Science Program website lists numerous science capable aircraft NASA has used ( as well as airborne sensors (