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European Scientific Project PEGASOS to use Zeppelin NT as research platform

Scientists from Forschungzentrum (Research Centre) lich in Germany, are using a Zeppelin NT airship to measure the composition of air over Europe, as part of the "PEGASOS" project.  PEGASOS, involving twenty-six partners across  fourteen European countries and Israel, is investigating the relationships between atmospheric chemistry and climate change.  This project is part of the European Union's 7th Framework Programme (FP7)

This is the third time that scientists from Jülich have used the Zeppelin NT to carry out research. In 2007 and 2008 flights in the Lake Constance region helped to develop the instruments now being installed for the PEGASOS project.

Thanks to the unique flight characteristics of airships, the scientists can carry out research in the planetary boundary layer, up to an altitude of about 2000 metres. The planetary boundary layer is very reactive chemically, but has not previously been well-researched.  As it is in the planetary boundary layer that the fate of most of the pollutants emitted on the earth’s surface is decided, it is important to collect and analyze data from this layer in order to understand the atmospheric processes in detail. This will greatly assist with the verification and improvement of our current models and concepts.

The Zeppelin NT can ascend and descend vertically, fly for up to 24 hours and remain virtually stationary at any altitude up to its pressure ceiling while using very little fuel. During this project it carries measuring equipment weighing more than one tonne, collecting a variety of samples from within the boundary layer - ideally these will be complemented by measurements from other aircraft and fixed ground stations.

The airship is currently being fitted out with the instrument suite. From mid-May, the refitted Zeppelin NT will embark on a two-week journey to Cabauw in the Netherlands, accompanied by an international team of scientists and technicians.

Under the current project, there will be three phases, each covering a distinct region.  The Zeppelin will visit:

  • Netherlands - 14 May to 1 June 2012
  • Italy and the Adriatric – 8 June to 17 July 2012
  • Finland – mid-April to mid-June 2013

During the five-week mission beginning in June, the airship will fly east of the Alps to Italy, where measurements will be taken in the Po Valley and above the Adriatic. On the return flight to Friedrichshafen, the Zeppelin will take the westerly route around the Alps through France. Finally, in April 2013, the atmospheric researchers will set out towards Northern Europe on another two-month mission, heading for Hyytiälä in Finland.

Both the mission routes and the measuring locations have been coordinated with existing ground measuring stations. In this way, the researchers can directly compare data from the flight with data gathered by ground stations.

For further information please see the attached press releases

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