Historic NASA flight data found by 2 researchers at UAH

shelby bagwell ashlyn shireyP 3 aircraft
Shelby Bagwell and Ashlyn Shirey are UAH Earth System Science Center research associates who helped recover NASA flight data. (Mike Cropper/UAH)

NASA flight data dating back more than 30 years was recently discovered by researchers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Earth System Science Center.

The ESSC worked in cooperation with the NASA Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team (IMPACT) program. Here’s what they found:

Read more

NASA + UAH working together

UAH101 1
NASA IMPACT’s Airborne Data Management Group is located at UAH. (Jacob Blankenship / Hville Blast)

Historic records of NASA flight data dating back to the 1990s of NASA’s P-3 aircraft flights over the Arctic and Antarctic circles were recently found and digitized by two employees of the ESSC — Shelby Bagwell and Ashlyn Shirey.

As members of NASA IMPACT’s Airborne Data Management Group located at UAH, Bagwell and Shirey had a mission to make scientific information and research more openly available.

Digitizing this information now provides researchers access to examine the progression of NASA’s research and the variety of instruments flown from NASA’s P-3’s first campaign to its current day activities.

“I was impressed by the variety of the instruments that can be operated on board the P-3 and other aircraft. So many measurements can be taken during a single flight, which is why flight campaigns are so valuable to the Earth science research efforts.”

Shelby Bagwell, NASA IMPACT’s Airborne Data Management Group

Originally, the majority of NASA’s P-3’s campaign and flight details during the 1990s and early 2000s were recorded on paper and stored at Wallops Flight Facility. This made it difficult for researchers to access the information.

UAH + NASA researches reveal findings

NSSTC 1
The NASA flight data was discovered by employees of the ESSC at UAH. (UAH)

Bagwell and Shirey recently traveled to Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, scouring filing cabinets and numerous binders filled with documentation of past P-3 flights.

Information collected included P-3 instrument payload, flight details such as location and duration, scientific objectives and flight personnel. They also scanned floor plans of the P-3 for each campaign, to ensure instrument placement and connection information is retained.

Once all information was collected, Bagwell and Shirey digitized the NASA flight data into easily accessible computer readable files. Their work helps preserve this historical documentation, particularly for NASA P-3 campaigns prior to 2007.

NASA’s P-3 flights have been a crucial asset to the agency’s Earth science research efforts since it was acquired in the early 1990s. Since the beginning, the P-3 has flown in many Arctic and Antarctic campaigns outfitted with multiple instruments for collecting data for areas of study including meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, and cryospheric research.

The P-3 was also used to test new airborne and satellite instrumentation.

Keep up with what’s happening in and around Huntsville by following Hville Blast on  FacebookTikTok and Instagram, and by subscribing to our newsletter!

Michael Seale
Michael Seale
Articles: 409