The exercise is a multi-year campaign to test a variety of sensors and techniques to improve water measurements in snow over different terrains, a key factor in calculating water supplies in many parts of the world, according to NASA scientists and Forest Service officials. NASA provided the test equipment, a variety of sophisticated sensors, scanners and radar, which was used aboard VXS-1’s NP-3C Orion.
SnowEx took place primarily in the Rocky Mountains of Grand Mesa, Colorado, with other operations at Senator Beck Basin, near Silverton, Colorado. The squadron operated out of Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs.
“This was a really unique opportunity for us,” said Cmdr. David Neall, VXS-1’s executive officer.
NASA has its own P-3 aircraft, but they weren’t available for this mission, according to Neall. “They (NASA) asked for our assistance, and it turned out to be great timing that we were able to support them,” he said.
The P-3 aircraft is perfect for a mission like this, said LT Denise Miller, one of the pilots for SnowEx.
It has long endurance and long range -- up to 10 hours, said Miller. We can fly it anywhere on the planet.
During the two-week campaign, scientists and forestry experts collected a variety of airborne and ground-based measurements of the snow-packed mountains. The SnowEx team included more than 100 scientists from universities and agencies across the United States, Europe and Canada. SnowEx is sponsored by the Terrestial Hydrology Program in NASA’s Earth Science Division, Washington, D.C., and managed by Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. The U.S. Forest Services led the ground campaign in Grand Mesa and Senator Beck Basin.
Working with the Forest Service’s ground experts and NASA scientists had Miller viewing this mission as a career milestone.
“This mission was a really exciting surprise for me, for all of us,” she said.
“We helped gather really important information, how water affects farming and people’s quality of life.”