Wallops C-23 Sherpa returns from 6-month science mission in Alaska


WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. - The NASA C-23 Sherpa aircraft, operated by Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility, returned home Oct. 8 from a successful six-month science campaign out of Fairbanks, Alaska.

The C-23 supported the Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) campaign and its mission to collect detailed measurements of greenhouse gases on local to regional scales in the Alaskan Arctic.

Furthermore, the CARVE mission was designed to demonstrate new remote sensing and improved modeling capabilities to quantify Arctic carbon fluxes and carbon cycle-climate processes. Ultimately, CARVE will provide an integrated set of data that will provide experimental insights into Arctic carbon cycling.

CARVE campaign activities began in April 2012 with scientific equipment installation. The aircraft was modified to include an eight-inch aperture to support a nadir viewing spectrometer, atmospheric inlet probes connected to a gas analyzer for greenhouse gas measurements, forward and nadir looking video and infrared cameras as well as several instrumentation racks and an experimenter power system.

Flight operations began in May with deployment to the Fairbanks International Airport. The CARVE campaign was designed around the yearly freeze/thaw cycle in Alaska to study carbon fluxes during the spring, summer, and fall timeframes. WFF research pilots, mechanics, project managers and support personnel deployed to Alaska on two week rotational duty each month to support CARVE activities. The C-23 aircraft remained in Alaska throughout the campaign.

CARVE science flights occurred over the central, northern, western and southwestern portions of Alaska. Flight altitudes range from 500 to 17,500 feet with the majority of the data collected 500 feet above the ground in Alaska. A typical science mission day would include two flights of 4-5 hours each. The CARVE mission flew over 240 hours making it the longest, continuous single mission ever flown by WFF personnel or aircraft.

The next CARVE deployment is scheduled for April-September 2013.

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