NASA will finally be able to play with the two RQ-4s that the agency received back in November. Don’t expect these two airframes to be the last RQ-4s transferred to a civil government customer.
Also, pay attention to the last sentence of the second paragraph of the NASA press release excerpted below: “… expanded markets, missions and airborne capabilities”? My guesses: airborne early warning, earth observation, climate change monitoring, etc, etc.
NASA / NORTHROP AGREEMENT OPENS DOOR TO SCIENCE INVESTIGATIONS
NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center and the Northrop Grumman Corporation have reached an agreement that will enable NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to conduct Earth science research with the Northrop Grumman-developed RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system.
Under a Space Act Agreement signed April 30, NASA and Northrop Grumman will bring to flight in 2009 two pre-production Global Hawk aircraft that were recently transferred to NASA. Northrop Grumman will share in their use to conduct its own flight demonstrations for expanded markets, missions and airborne capabilities, including integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace.
The two Global Hawk aircraft, among the first seven built during the original Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency sponsored Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program, were transferred to NASA Dryden from the U.S. Air Force in September 2007. NASA acquired the two aircraft for research activities supporting its Airborne Science Program.”