NASA's Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (AIRSAR) recently completed a series of Earth Science flights designed to explore commercial applications of scientific data.

During October and November, Dryden's DC-8 Flying Laboratory had been outfitted with the AIRSAR instrument operated by scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The aircraft is part of Dryden's Airborne Science Program at Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA.

The AIRSAR experiment, which flies periodically on the DC-8, collects data that is used to support a wide range of research. Among the many uses of radar data are applications that enhance researchers' ability to predict agricultural yields, forest health, and volcanic and tectonic activity.

The objective of the most recent DC-8 project was to develop commercial applications for the data under the Earth Observing Commercial Applications Program, managed out of NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

When the DC-8 was based for 10 days at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla, the crew flew daily missions over the Southeast gathering scientific data with the AIRSAR experiment. For several weeks before and after the deployment, the DC-8 flew sorties over the Western United States.

"AIRSAR's many operating modes and targeted data collection will assist industry in developing applications to such issues as crop insurance and telecommunications equipment sites. Several experimental modes, including a high-resolution mode and a mode to measure ocean currents, were also tested on these flights," said Ellen O'Leary, AIRSAR science coordinator at JPL.

During one flight, the Dryden and JPL crews were joined by three astronauts training for next year's STS-99 mission that will fly the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). SRTM will map 80 percent of the Earth's land surfaces to provide a three- dimensional map of the Earth.

"Several versions of SAR have flown on Space Shuttle missions. While producing useful data for Earth scientists, the DC-8 also serves as a testbed for future airborne and space-based SAR missions," said Mark Pestana, Dryden's DC-8 mission manager,

More information about the AIRSAR mission is available at

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.

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