P-3 Orion - WFF

NASA P-3 Orion
Current Status:
P-3 PDM Pre-Work (ends 03/24/23)

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s (GSFC) Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) Aircraft Office operates the NASA Airborne Science Program's P-3 Orion (N426NA) research aircraft to support airborne science research. Wallops Flight Facility has operated the P-3 since 1991 in support of a variety of scientific studies including ecology, meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, cryospheric research, oceanography, soil science, biology, and satellite calibration/validation. The P-3 is also used as a technology test bed for new airborne and satellite instrumentation. The P-3 is a self-sufficient global reaching aircraft that can operate from civilian and military airports to remote areas of the world in support of scientific studies.

The P-3 is a four-engine turboprop aircraft designed for endurance and range and is capable of long duration flights. The P-3 has been extensively modified to support airborne science related activities. Aircraft features include zenith ports, three nadir ports (aft of the wings), and seven P-3 and DC-8 style windows to mount experiments, a tail cone port, nose radome port, and ten mounting locations on the wings. Most of the fuselage ports are contained within the pressurized cabin environment. The unpressurized bomb bay can be converted into experimenter ports via a custom fairing. This fairing creates two large nadir ports and several oblique ports for installation of large sensors and antennas. Dropsonde and sonobuoy deployment systems are also available for use.

An Airborne Science Program data system is located on the aircraft and provides aircraft data and video throughout the cabin. This system is also connected to two satellite constellations and provides uplink/downlink capability, internet access, flight tracking, and instant messaging between other aircraft and ground assets. Several sensors are connected to the data system to provide meteorological and aircraft positional data to researchers.

The GSFC/WFF Aircraft Office is committed to providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective platforms for airborne research.

NASA GSFC Wallops Flight Facility
Conventional Aircraft
14 hours (payload and weather dependent)
Useful Payload: 
14,700 lbs
Gross Take-off Weight: 
135,000 lbs
Onboard Operators: 
24 (including flight crew)
Max Altitude: 
28,000 MSL
Air Speed: 
400 knots
3,800 Nmi
115VAC 60Hz single phase; 115VAC 400Hz 3 phase; 28V DC
NASA SMD User Fee per Hour: 
Point(s) of Contact: 

Mike Cropper

Work: (757) 824-2140
Individual Aircraft Details: 

N426NA (NASA426) based at WFF
  Year built: 1966
  Year entered ASP service: 1991