Research Plane HALO to Open up New Research Areas
Enlarge image (© picture alliance / dpa) With the new research airplane HALO (High Altitude Long Range Research Aircraft), Germany wants to break new ground in energy and climate research. On Monday, Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan was at the christening of HALO at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in the Bavarian town of Weßling. The plane should help researchers better understand and predict extreme-weather events and strengthen Germany’s reputation as a research leader.
The plan involves a converted Gulfstream G550 which has been tested and improved over the past three years. Since Monday, it has been ready to be used for research. HALO is operated by a scientific consortium to which the DLR, the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers and the German Research Foundation belong. A number of universities will also use the aircraft. With air measurements, it should supplement data from ground stations and satellite recordings.
The chairman of the DLR, Johann-Dietrich Wörner, noted that scientists can reach previously unreachable dimensions with the plane. HALO can fly up to 8,000 kilometers at a maximum altitude of 15 kilometers. It can transport three metric tons of equipment thereby easily exceeding the capacity of the old DLR research machines.
The leader of the scientific steering committee of HALO, Andreas Wahner, underlines the breadth of possible research fields. There are already plans for more than a dozen projects, for example to look at meteorological questions or the measurement of climate-relevant gases. The current mission TACTS (Transport and Composition in the UTLS) will look at the chemical composition of the upper troposphere and the lower stratosphere. HALO could also perform preparatory work for future satellite missions.
The entire costs of the project amount to around 74 million euros, according to the German Ministry of Education and Research. These costs are covered by research institutes, the federal government and the state of Bavaria. On Monday, Schavan assured scientists of her further support with future running costs.