HIAPER is the High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research, an advanced airborne research platform currently being built and modified to serve the National Science Foundation's (NSF) environmental research needs for the next several decades. The new aircraft will be maintained and operated for the NSF by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.
In December 2001, a contract was awarded to Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation (a subsidiary of General Dynamics) for production of the HIAPER green airframe, a Gulfstream V (GV) business jet. Under the terms of this contract, Gulfstream will serve as the primary subcontractor and will, in addition to manufacturing the basic aircraft, directly oversee the work of the aircraft modifier, Lockheed Martin.
Contract award to Gulfstream was the culmination of a multi-year effort to define the requirements for the HIAPER, select a contractor, and secure NSF funding for the project. In the fall of 2001, negotiations with Gulfstream were concluded and the National Science Board (NSB) approved the resulting deal. Congress appropriated an additional $35 million for fiscal year 2002 for the project which, in combination with the $21 million allocated previously, allowed for the purchase through NSF's Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) fund. In 2003, the remaining funds needed to complete the program were awarded by Congress. At the time of completion, the HIAPER and associated new research instrumentation will have cost approximately $80 million.
Management of the aircraft acquisition and modification effort is the responsibility of the HIAPER Project Office (HPO) at NCAR. At the NSF level, oversight of this acquisition is provided by the Division of Atmospheric Sciences Program Official (James Huning) and the office of the Deputy Director of Large Facility Projects within the Office of Budget, Finance, and Award Management. Scientific community oversight and guidance is provided by the HIAPER Advisory Committee (HAC), an advisory body consisting of members from the university community, NCAR, NSF, NASA, and NOAA.
As originally envisioned and proposed, the HIAPER will be a research aircraft with altitude, range, and endurance capabilities that will enable investigators to perform critical earth system research. With a scientific payload of approximately 6000 pounds, the HIAPER will be able to climb to an altitude of 41,000 feet in approximately 22 minutes. The maximum certified altitude for the aircraft is 51,000 feet. The ability to carry payloads to such high altitudes will enable scientists to conduct important atmospheric studies in and near the tropopause. The modified aircraft will be capable of covering a range of 6000 nautical miles in a single flight, which will allow for such missions as a research flight covering the western, southern, and eastern borders of the continental U.S. (from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine) and studies of the South Pole environment conducted from South America or New Zealand. Additional information on the detailed specifications for the HIAPER is available within this Web site.
Modifications to be made to the GV by Gulfstream and Lockheed Martin to prepare the aircraft for environmental research will include the installation of three hard points underneath each wing for carrying wing pods and/or other types of sensors (for example, aerosol or cloud particle sampling instruments). Three 20.5-inch diameter optical ports - two downward looking and one upward looking - will also be installed for remote sensing equipment. Several fuselage hard points and aperture plates will also be put in place to allow for the deployment of various inlets, antennas, and other small instruments as needed. Attachment points will also be installed in the aircraft cabin to allow for equipment racks and seats as needed. Finally, research power equipment and power and data signal wiring will be installed.
Production of the green aircraft was completed in June 2002. Lockheed Martin has begun engineering design work and will undertake modification of the aircraft from roughly June 2003 to June 2004. It is anticipated that the modified aircraft will be delivered to UCAR/NCAR in October 2004, with infrastructure integration work (data acquisition system, ICS installation, etc.) to be conducted by NCAR staff for an eight-month period immediately following development of HIAPER to be completed in June 2005. Present plans are for the first research deployment of the HIAPER to occur in June 2005.