DALLAS — The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been flying its very own DC-8 jetliner as part of its flying observatory missions ever since 1985, but as the antique bird possesses far too many problems today, a replacement is well underway: a Boeing 777.
The newly added, almost 20-year-old widebody is a Boeing 777-200ER (MSN 32892), which formerly flew for Japan Airlines (JA) and bore registration JA704J.
Under NASA, the Triple Seven will wear a new American registration. The aircraft was stored in Victorville (VCV) from July 2020 up until December 15, 2022, when the twinjet made its way out of southern California to Langley (AFB) in Virginia.
NASA’s Antique Quad Jet
The NASA DC-8-72 is a four-engine jet that has been heavily modified to aid the agency’s science mission. Built in 1969, the DC-8 was only acquired by NASA fifteen years later and is currently housed at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center facility in Palmdale, California.
According to NASA, it has a range of 5,400 nautical miles and can fly at altitudes ranging from 1000 to 42,000 feet for up to 12 hours.
The space agency also states that the data gathered from the aircraft at altitude and through remote sensing have been used for studies in archaeology, ecology, geography, hydrology, meteorology, oceanography, volcanology, atmospheric chemistry, cryospheric science, soil science, and biology.
Four types of missions are flown with the DC-8: sensor development, satellite sensor verification, space vehicle launch or re-entry telemetry data retrieval, optical tracking, and basic research studies of Earth’s surface and atmosphere.
Big Jet, Big Modifications
As stated on Scramble.nl, according to NASA’s FY23 budget documents, the Boeing 777 was acquired in their FY22 budget for under USD 30 million.
Prior to its entry into active mission flying, it will undergo several modifications at NASA’s Langley Research Center and it is also unknown when exactly it could replace the DC-8. According to Scramble, the modifications and testing would take several years.
Featured image: Japan Airlines JA704J Boeing 777-200(ER). Photo: Brad Tisdel/Airways