Join the Unexplained Mysteries community today! It's free and setting up an account only takes a moment.
- Sign In or Create Account -
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Waspie_Dwarf

SOFIA - Airborne Astronomical Observatory

12 posts in this topic

NASA Astronomical Observatory Passes Hurdle


The user posted image press release is reproduced below:

June 15, 2006
Erica Hupp/Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1237/1726

RELEASE: 06-240


NASA Astronomical Observatory Passes Hurdle


The world's largest airborne astronomical observatory has passed a technical and programmatic review that could potentially lead to the continuation of the mission.

NASA's Program Management Council concluded that there were no insurmountable technical or programmatic challenges to the continued development of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). The agency has developed a technically viable plan to proceed with the development of the SOFIA aircraft, subject to the identification of appropriate funding offsets.

Earlier this year, the decision had been made to discontinue funding in fiscal year 2007 as a result of technical, programmatic, and budget challenges affecting the program. The NASA Program Management Council is chaired by NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden and comprised of NASA headquarters and center senior management.

"We placed the program on hold last February because of programmatic and technical issues," said Geveden. "Since that time, we have thoroughly reviewed the program and now are confident that SOFIA can resolve those issues. However, it is not yet clear whether SOFIA represents the best investment of space science funding, and we will need to consider funding options and sources before we decide to continue the mission."

SOFIA has been under development since 1996 as an airborne astronomical observatory consisting of a 2.5-meter aperture telescope permanently installed in a specially-modified Boeing 747 aircraft. The aircraft, fitted with an open-port telescope provided through a partnership with the German Aerospace Center, will provide routine access to space observations in several parts of the spectrum beyond what is visible to the eye.

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/home

- end -

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Source: NASA Press Release 06-240

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Airborne Infrared Observatory Makes First Flight


The SOFIA / Universities Space Research Association (USRA) press release is reproduced below:


SOFIA Airborne Observatory Completes First Test Flight

International Project Features 20-ton, German Telescope on NASA 747 Aircraft


April 26, 2007

New York, NY – L-3 Communications announced today that NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), completed its first test flight following extensive aircraft modification and telescope integration at the company's L-3 Integrated Systems (L-3 IS) Waco, Texas facility.

SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP extensively modified to carry a 45,000-pound (20 metric ton), 98.4-inch (2.5-meter) diameter infrared telescope assembly provided by the German Aerospace Center, DLR. SOFIA will fly at altitudes up to 45,000 feet (13.7 km) - above more than 99 percent of the Earth's water vapor - to capture infrared images and spectra not possible by even the largest ground-based telescopes.

One of the most dramatic physical modifications ever made to a 747 aircraft, L-3 Communications performed the modification without the involvement of the aircraft's original equipment manufacturer.

"SOFIA reflects the expertise that makes L-3 Integrated Systems the industry's most accomplished independent aircraft integrator," said Bob Drewes, Corporate Senior Vice President, and President and Chief Operating Officer of the L-3 Integrated Systems Group. "This flying observatory combines extensive aeronautical engineering and our major modification ability to produce a flying marvel."

"We are thrilled that SOFIA has taken to the air and congratulate L-3 on their accomplishment. We look forward to the day when SOFIA will become a world-class astronomical research facility." said Dr. Frederick A. Tarantino, president of Universities Space Research Association (USRA), SOFIA's science and mission operations contractor.

The program was awarded by NASA in 1996 to a combined U.S. and German team that includes L-3 and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). The first metal on the aircraft was cut by L-3 in 2000, as installation began on a reinforced, pressurized bulkhead that helped create a cavity in the rear of the aircraft where the telescope assembly was later installed. In addition to the aircraft structural modifications and the telescope assembly installation, major aircraft activities included:
  • Installation of an approximately 16-foot (more than 4.5-meters) tall cavity door designed to open in flight to permit telescope observations;
  • Installation of a complex liquid-nitrogen cooling system used to pre-cool the telescope cavity to match thermal conditions when the cavity door is opened at altitude;
  • Performance of heavy depot-level maintenance and service bulletin incorporation on the 747SP, which flew in commercial service from 1977 to 1995.
Headquartered in New York City, L-3 Communications is a leading provider of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems, secure communications systems, aircraft modernization, training and government services. The company is a leading merchant supplier of a broad array of high technology products, including guidance and navigation, sensors, scanners, fuses, data links, propulsion systems, simulators, avionics, electro optics, satellite communications, electrical power equipment, encryption, signal intelligence, antennas and microwave components. To learn more about L-3 Communications, please visit the company's Web site at www.L-3Com.com .

USRA is a nonprofit consortium of universities established in 1969 by the National Academy of Sciences and now comprised of 101 member universities. The consortium's mission is to advance space-related sciences and exploration through innovative research, technology and educational programs; to promote space policy; and to develop and operate premier facilities and programs, by involving universities, the private sector and governments. More information about USRA can be found at www.usra.edu. More information about SOFIA can be found at www.sofia.usra.edu.

Contact:

Lance Martin
L-3 Integrated Systems
254-867.7001

Dana Backman
SOFIA / USRA & SETI Institute
650-604.2128

Source: SOFIA / USRA Press Release Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
SOFIA Astronomy Jet Makes First Flight


International astronomers are a major step closer to unlocking secrets of the cosmos. A modified 747 airliner mounting a huge infrared telescope took to the skies for the first time on April 26, 2007 as a NASA flight crew put the big jet through the first of several shakedown flights since the airplane underwent major modifications at L-3 Communications in Waco, Texas. NASA research pilot and astronaut Gordon Fullerton led the crew making the historic first fligh.

linked-image
Image above: The NASA and German Aerospace Center
SOFIA airborne infrared observatory lifts off for its first
check flight from its modification center in Waco, Texas
on April 26, 2007.
(NASA Dryden photo by Tony Landis)


To enable the 45,000-pound infrared telescope to scan the skies, the 747 was modified by cutting a 16-foot tall opening in the aft fuselage, and fairing it with a sliding door. By flying at altitudes above 40,000 feet, this special 747SP will rise above most atmospheric water vapor to give the 98.4-inch diameter infrared telescope clear access to collect infrared images from space. The huge telescope can be positioned anywhere in the skies, unlike ground-based telescopes, and between science missions it can be serviced and reconfigured as needed to accomplish world class astronomy.

After a few shakedown flights over Texas, SOFIA will fly to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California’s Mojave Desert for flight tests combined with integration of its sophisticated astronomy hardware. SOFIA project manager Bob Meyer said the integrated approach will enable scientists to begin making infrared images even before the modified jetliner has completed its flight testing program.

linked-image
Image above: Christened "Clipper Lindbergh" when it
flew for Pan American Airways in the 1970s, the
SOFIA 747SP shows evidence of modification to its
aft fuselage contours to accommodate a 16-foot-tall
opening for a 45,000-pound infrared telescope. This
inflight photo was taken on SOFIA's first flight since
its modification to become an airborne observatory.
(NASA Dryden photo by Carla Thomas)


Pilot Gordon Fullerton's NASA crew for the first flight of SOFIA included copilot Bill Brockett, flight engineer Larry LaRose, and flight test engineer Marty Trout. L-3's flight test analyst Don Stonebrook was also a crewmember.

SOFIA is a joint international effort by NASA and DLR, the German Aerospace Center. In addition to Dryden, NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California's San Francisco Bay area is deeply involved in the science of SOFIA. The entire effort is supported by Universities Space Research Association (USRA), a non-profit group of universities created in 1969 by the National Academy of Sciences.

Additional SOFIA photos can be seen at http://www1.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Photo/SOFIA/index.html

Frederick A. Johnsen
NASA Public Affairs


Source: NASA - Exploring The Universe - Our Solar System

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
NASA's SOFIA to be Rededicated on Historic Lindbergh Anniversary


The linked-image media advisory is reproduced below:

May 11, 2007
Grey Hautaluoma
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0668

Beth Hagenauer
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
661-276-7960/3449

MEDIA ADVISORY: M07-52

NASA's SOFIA to be Rededicated on Historic Lindbergh Anniversary


WACO, Texas - On May 21, Charles Lindbergh's grandson Erik will help NASA dedicate a special 747 astronomy aircraft to the trailblazing aviator. May 21 is the 80th anniversary of Lindbergh's historic solo New York-to-Paris flight. The ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. CDT, at the Texas State Technical College Airport in Waco.

The unique Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, incorporates a 98.4 inch infrared telescope mounted in a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft. The airborne observatory is a partnership between NASA and the German Aerospace Center. Lindbergh's grandson will rededicate the aircraft, called "Clipper Lindbergh," during the event. Lindbergh recreated his grandfather's solo transatlantic crossing in 2002. Along with program managers and scientists, he will be available for live video interviews at the SOFIA aircraft.

The SOFIA 747 was originally christened by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, widow of the famous aviator, when it began service as an airliner in 1977. The plane has a 16-foot-high door in the aft fuselage that will open, allowing the 45,000-pound telescope to capture astronomical data in the infrared spectrum at altitudes that could exceed 40,000 feet. By flying above 90 percent of the Earth's atmospheric water vapor, SOFIA will significantly exceed the capabilities of infrared observatories on Earth.

News media wishing to attend the event must request accreditation by May 16 from the public affairs office at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. Reporters should submit their full name, media affiliation, date and place of birth, and telephone number. Requests on company letterhead may be faxed to 661-276-3088 or e-mailed to beth.hagenauer-1@nasa.gov. Information also may be submitted by telephone to 661-276-7960 or 661-276-3449. For more information about SOFIA, visit:


Source: NASA Media Advisory M07-52

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

NASA's SOFIA Airborne Observatory Flies Again

linked-image

Image above: NASA's new SOFIA airborne observatory is shadowed by

a NASA F/A-18 safety chase aircraft during its second checkout flight

near Waco, Texas on May 10, 2007.

(NASA Photo by Jim Ross)

NASA's new SOFIA airborne observatory is shadowed by a NASA F/A-18 safety chase aircraft during its second checkout flight near Waco, Texas on May 10, 2007. Originally christened "Clipper Lindbergh" when it flew for Pan American Airways in the 1970s, the modified Boeing 747SP carrying a 2.5-meter, 17-metric-ton infrared telescope is to be rededicated in honor of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh during ceremonies in Waco, Texas on May 21, 2007, the 80th anniversary of Lindbergh's New York to Paris flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.

Source: NASA - Dryden

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
NASA Rededicates Flying Observatory on Lindbergh Anniversary


The linked-image press release is reproduced below:

May 21, 2007
Grey Hautaluoma
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0668

Beth Hagenauer
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
661-276-7960

RELEASE: 07-117

NASA Rededicates Flying Observatory on Lindbergh Anniversary


WACO, Texas - Monday, NASA dedicated a unique astronomy aircraft to pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh on the 80th anniversary of his historic transatlantic flight. Erik Lindbergh, the pilot's grandson, joined NASA for the event May 21, in Waco, Texas.

NASA's new Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a highly modified 747 airliner that carries a 45,000-pound infrared telescope system. Pan American Airways originally christened the plane the "Clipper Lindbergh" in 1977. At the rededication ceremony, NASA officials discussed the similarities between Lindbergh's accomplishments and SOFIA's potential to capture scientifically important infrared images unavailable to earthbound telescopes. The SOFIA aircraft was modified at L-3 Systems in Waco and is wrapping up a series of functional checkout flights before heading to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for further tests and systems integration.

Erik Lindbergh unveiled a plaque commemorating Clipper Lindbergh. "This project is a fantastic blend of a 20th century legacy aircraft and a 21st century platform for exploration," he said.

Intended to fly above 40,000 feet, SOFIA will place its infrared telescope above nearly 99 percent of the Earth's atmospheric water vapor, greatly enhancing its abilities to study the cosmos. Its state-of-the-art telescope will be able to carry out scientific missions with greater flexibility and ease of upgrade than a satellite-borne observatory.

NASA's partner in SOFIA is the German Aerospace Center, which provided the telescope. NASA modified the aircraft. A 16-foot-high opening has been cut into the aft fuselage to permit observations to be made at altitude. Once it arrives at Dryden, SOFIA will continue flight and systems testing for about two years while its observatory system hardware and software are integrated with the aircraft. The telescope's first images are expected in 2009.

- end -


Source: NASA Press Release 07-117

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SOFIA Airborne Observatory Arrives at NASA Dryden

linked-image

Image above: NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy

(SOFIA) Boeing 747SP flares for landing at Edwards AFB after a ferry

flight from Waco, Texas.

NASA photo by Carla Thomas

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, has arrived at Dryden. SOFIA will undergo installation and integration of mission systems and a multi-phase flight test program at Dryden over the next three years that is expected to lead to a full operational capability to conduct astronomy missions in about 2010.

Source: NASA - Dryden

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sofia Observatory Enters Aircraft Testing Phase


The linked-image press release is reproduced below:

Oct. 12, 2007
Grey Hautaluoma
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0668
grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov

Beth Hagenauer
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
661-276-7960
beth.hagenauer@nasa.gov
661-276-7960

RELEASE: 07-225

Sofia Observatory Enters Aircraft Testing Phase


EDWARDS, Calif. - NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, known as SOFIA, began a series of flight tests Thursday of the highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft. The tests are the first of several phases required to verify the aircraft is structurally sound for future science flights. This phase is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

After finishing flight testing and modifications, NASA plans to begin using the airborne observatory for "first light" infrared observations of the universe in 2009. The first light flights will enable the mission to begin obtaining results several years before the observatory reaches its full capability in 2014. SOFIA will collect science data using a variety of specialized instruments developed by NASA and its German partners.

"SOFIA is making tremendous progress toward the initiation of science observations in 2009, and this flight testing is another milestone along the path," said Jon Morse, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "Early observations will have significant science community involvement to initiate broad use of this unique astronomical observatory."

When operational, SOFIA's 2.5-meter infrared telescope will conduct celestial observations while flying at altitudes up to 45,000 feet. This height will place the instrument above almost 99 percent of the Earth's atmospheric water vapor, greatly enhancing its ability to observe the cosmos. The flying observatory is designed to detect the formation of stars in our galaxy, determine the chemical composition of the interstellar medium, and peer through the dust that hides the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

During mission development, engineers installed a 17-metric-ton telescope in SOFIA's aft fuselage at L-3 Communications Integrated Systems facility in Waco, Texas. They also cut a 16-foot-high telescope door into the fuselage during the telescope installation process.

After arrival at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., the aircraft was outfitted with test instrumentation critical for these preliminary flight tests. The aircraft also has been equipped with a telescope cavity environmental control system designed to keep the telescope dry when the door is closed and as the aircraft flies to the altitude required for operation of the observatory.

NASA is conducting the first series of flight tests with the cavity door closed. These flights will study the aerodynamics, structural integrity, stability and control, and handling qualities of the modified aircraft. Future flights will concentrate on the in-flight rotational motion and control of the German-built telescope.

After closed-door flight testing is complete, the flying observatory will undergo installation and integration of the remaining elements of the observatory before door-open test flights, which are scheduled to begin in late 2008.

"The largest technical challenges remaining are in 2008, with the remainder of the mission sub-system installation that will give the aircraft the ability to fly with the cavity door open," said SOFIA aircraft project manager John Carter at Dryden.

The program is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center. Dryden manages SOFIA with science elements of the program managed by NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

For more information about SOFIA, visit:


Source: NASA Press Release 07-225

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy

NASA is developing the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy - or SOFIA - as a world-class airborne observatory that will complement the Hubble, Spitzer, Herschel and James Webb space telescopes and major Earth-based telescopes.

linked-image

Image above: NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy,

SOFIA, lifted off from Edwards Air Force Base at mid-day Thursday,

Oct. 11, on the first in a series of flight tests intended to verify the flight

performance of the highly modified Boeing 747SP to its design capability.

NASA photo / Tony Landis

SOFIA features a German-built 100-inch (2.5 meter) diameter far-infrared telescope weighing 20 tons mounted in the rear fuselage of a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft. It is one of the premier space science programs of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

linked-image

Image above: NASA's SOFIA infrared observatory in flight for the first

of a series of test flights to verify the flight performance of the highly

modified Boeing 747SP.

NASA photo / Tony Landis

SOFIA is a joint program by NASA and DLR Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt (German Aerospace Center). Major aircraft modifications and installation of the telescope has been carried out at L-3 Communications Integrated Systems facility at Waco, Texas. Completion of systems installation, integration and flight test operations are being conducted at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., from 2007 through 2010. SOFIA's science operations are being planned jointly by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and the Deutsches SOFIA Institut (DSI) under leadership of the SOFIA Science project at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field near San Jose, Calif.

Unparalleled Astronomical Science Capabilities

Once it begins operations in about 2010, SOFIA'S 2.5-meter (100 inch) diameter reflecting telescope will provide astronomers with access to the visible, infrared and sub-millimeter spectrum, with optimized performance in the mid-infrared to sub-millimeter range. During its 20-year expected lifetime it will be capable of "Great Observatory"–class astronomical science.

linked-image

Image above: The German-built 100-inch telescope that is the heart of

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is nestled in

the SOFIA 747's rear fuselage.

(Photo courtesy of L-3 Communications)

SOFIA will continue the legacy of prominent planetary scientist Dr. Gerard Kuiper, who began airborne astronomy in 1966 with a 12-inch telescope aimed out a window of a converted Convair 990 jetliner. His work led to the development of NASA's Kuiper Airborne Observatory, a modified C-141 aircraft incorporating a 36-inch reflecting telescope that flew from 1974 to 1995. During its 21-year lifetime, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory focused on solar system, galactic and extra-galactic astronomy, and discovered the rings of Uranus, a ring of dust around the center of the Milky Way, luminous infrared galaxies, complex organic molecules in space and water in comets.

As the world's largest airborne astronomical observatory, SOFIA will provide three times better image quality and vastly increased observational sensitivity than the Kuiper Airborne Observatory. From a base at NASA Dryden, SOFIA mission operations will be conducted over virtually the entire globe. Missions will be flown at altitudes of 39,000 to 45,000 feet, above 99 percent of the water vapor in the lower atmosphere that restrict the capabilities of ground-based observatories over most of the infrared and sub-millimeter spectral range.

By recording infrared measurements not possible from the ground, SOFIA will be able to observe occultations of stars by solar system objects to help determine the objects' sizes, compositions and atmospheric structures. It will help answer many fundamental questions about the creation and evolution of the universe, including how stars and planets are formed, how organic materials necessary for life form and evolve, and the nature of the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

Technology Development

linked-image

Image above: The visible light (left) and infrared (right) images of the

constellation Orion shown here are of the exact same area. These images

dramatically illustrate how features that cannot be seen in visible light

show up very brightly in the infrared.

(Credits: Visible light image: Akira Fujii;

Infrared image: Infrared Astronomical Satellite )

+ Printable Photo

SOFIA will also be an outstanding laboratory for developing and testing astronomical instrumentation and detector technology. Its nine first-generation cameras and spectrographs and later generation instruments will enable a wide variety of astronomical science observations not possible from other Earth- and space-borne observatories. Once validated, these instruments will be useful in future space missions and ground-based observatories. SOFIA's ability to return to earth after each flight will enable frequent opportunities to upgrade and install new science instruments. This in turn will stimulate and enable the development of new astronomical technology throughout its lifetime.

Education and Outreach

As part of its overall mission, SOFIA has been designed to incorporate a strong educational and public outreach emphasis to help improve American education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. SOFIA has been designed to give elementary, secondary and college-level educators from across the U.S. hands-on participation in cutting-edge scientific and astronomical research. It also will provide training for undergraduate and graduate-level scientists, engineers and technologists by enabling their participation in designing and developing instrumentation and conducting and analyzing observations of SOFIA's telescope.

Development Status to Date

Major modification of the former Boeing 747SP jetliner and installation of the telescope is essentially complete, except for telescope subsystems and mission control and communications systems. Modifications and installation were conducted over several years by L-3 Communications Integrated Systems Division in Waco, Texas. Following completion of ground testing, related engineering approvals and several checkout flights in the spring of 2007, further development of SOFIA became the responsibility of NASA Dryden, where final installation and integration of its numerous operating and science-related systems and a multi-phase build-up flight test program will occur.

linked-image

Image above: NASA's new SOFIA airborne observatory is shadowed by a

NASA F/A-18 safety chase aircraft during its second checkout flight near

Waco, Texas on May 10, 2007.

(NASA photo by Jim Ross)

The first flight test phase, slated for the latter part of 2007, will focus on expanding its flight envelope with the large external telescope cavity door closed. Following installation of an auxiliary power unit, insulation and an environmental control system in the telescope cavity and the on-board Mission Control and Communications Systems, SOFIA will enter its second phase of flight testing, currently scheduled for late 2008 through mid-2009. This phase will focus on the various aerodynamic and operational issues related to flying SOFIA at high altitudes at cruising speeds with the external telescope cavity door open.

Following the completion of the first two flight-test phases, further upgrades to the Mission Control and Communications System and installation and checkout of the initial suite of science instruments is planned. A series of functional checkout observation flights are then planned in 2009. These functional check flight segments will first characterize the capability of the airborne observatory and demonstrate its ability to obtain science data, then conduct shared-purpose flights to obtain astronomical data while telescope performance is being tuned, and finally a series of flights to demonstrate that the observatory is fully operational and ready for collecting science data.

Source: NASA - Missions - Sofia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

NASA's SOFIA Airborne Observatory Flies Again

linked-image

Image above: NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy,

SOFIA, is shadowed by a NASA F/A-18 mission support aircraft during a

recent test flight.

NASA photo / Carla Thomas

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, took to the skies Friday afternoon, Oct. 19, on the second of a series of flight tests intended to confirm the structural integrity and performance of the highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft. A variety of test points for evaluating various aerodynamic and structural issues and instrument calibrations were conducted during Friday's flight.

The current and future tests are intended to verify that the unique airborne observatory is ready to perform its future astronomical science mission. Friday's flight lasted about five hours and was conducted by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in restricted test airspace northwest of Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.

Source: NASA/DFRC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SOFIA Begins In-flight Checkout of Telescope Operation

12.20.07

Initial flight testing of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, continued during December at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Southern California. On Dec. 19, the highly modified Boeing 747SP carrying a German-built 2.5-meter infrared telescope took to the skies for a functional checkout of in-flight actuation and functional checkout of the telescope assembly.

linked-image

Image above: NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy,

SOFIA, is shadowed by a NASA F/A-18 mission support aircraft during a

recent test flight.

NASA photo / Carla Thomas

According to SOFIA program manager Robert Meyer, engineers and scientists from the German Aerospace Center DLR and the Deutsches SOFIA Institut simulated operation of the telescope as if it were tracking stars or other celestial objects, but with the aircraft's telescope cavity door closed. Meyer said most of telescope assembly test points were completed during the 5.5-hour flight, and project engineers are evaluating whether another telescope actuation check flight with the telescope cavity door closed will be needed.

If another flight is required, it would occur in early January after a break for the holiday season. The SOFIA will then be flown to NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., for an open-house exhibit of the aircraft and telescope for Ames personnel. The SOFIA will then be flown to Dryden's newly established Aircraft Operations Facility in nearby Palmdale, Calif., where it will be based during additional development, flight testing and its operational lifetime. Once at Palmdale, the SOFIA will undergo major telescope subsystem installation and integration in preparation for the next phase of flight tests with the telescope's external cavity door open, scheduled to begin in late 2008.

Five earlier flights in the first flight test phase confirmed the structural integrity and performance of the modified Boeing 747SP while carrying the SOFIA's 17-metric-ton infrared telescope. The tests expanded the flight envelope in the areas of flutter, structural loads, handling qualities and system validation with the telescope's external cavity door closed.

The current and future flight tests are intended to verify that the unique airborne observatory is ready to perform its future astronomical science mission.

> View News Release

> View Photos

> View Movies

> Sensational SOFIA Special Edition X-Press

Alan Brown

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

Source: NASA - Missions - SOFIA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.