SOFIA-Blog
 
 

SOFIA: Stars and the Space Between

14. March 2012, 08.58
The American Museum of Natural History just published a video introducing SOFIA, the NASA DLR airborne observatory. It gives a very good overview of the programme, the science and the aircraft. Watch the 8-minute feature 'SOFIA: Stars and the Space Between' here.
Henning Krause
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Henning Krause
 
 

'Live' airborne astronomy

06. June 2011, 08.18
I had already been working on the SOFIA project for some years, when back in 1998, a consortium of German research institutes (Max-Planck Institute of Radio Astronomy in Bonn, University of Cologne, Max-Planck Institute of Solar System Research and the DLR Institute of Planetary Research) decided to develop the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT) as the Principal Investigator-class Science Instrument for the first generation at the SOFIA Observatory. At this time, the aim was for the observatory to be operational by the end of 2001. It was not only the optimists who were expecting the GREAT spectrometer to soon enter operational service. Back then, who could have thought that it would take 13 years for GREAT to fly on SOFIA for the first time?
Dietmar Lilienthal
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Dietmar Lilienthal
 
 

Interview with Tom Speer on SOFIA

17. March 2011, 03.29
NASA's Tom Speer used to be a pilot for commercial aircraft. He now works in the SOFIA project, training new SOFIA crew members on aircraft operations. I asked Tom for an interview and he was kind enough as to answer my questions.
Henning Krause
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Henning Krause
 
 

First ground-based test observations with GREAT completed successfully

14. February 2011, 13.52
It has been an exciting few weeks conducting the first ground-based astronomical test observations, referred to as 'Line Ops', with the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT), at the SOFIA operations centre at Palmdale in the Mojave Desert. The mission was to install GREAT and carry out the initial operational tests.
Dietmar Lilienthal
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Dietmar Lilienthal
 
 

NASA airborne observatory's past unearthed

10. January 2011, 08.54
Fifteen years after its final flight, veterans of the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, or KAO, gathered at NASA's Ames Research Center Nov. 10, 2010 to witness the opening of a time capsule. The KAO is a highly modified Lockheed C-141A cargo transport aircraft fitted with a 36-inch telescope. The observatory was based at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, for operations that began in 1974 and ended in 1995.
Henning Krause
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Henning Krause
 
 

Spotted: strange object flying over SOFIA

23. December 2010, 10.24
Earlier this week I received a slightly puzzling email from my colleague Alan Brown over at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. He reported that earlier this month, on the night before SOFIA was due to start her first scientific flight, a strange cargo aircraft with a very odd propulsion system was spotted flying overhead. At that time, SOFIA's telescope system was still being tested for the flight next morning. Tom Tschida took a couple of quick shots, but when he looked back a moment later, it was gone!
Henning Krause
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Henning Krause
 
 

On board the third SOFIA science flight

08. December 2010, 18.19
After the first SOFIA science flight from 30 November to 1 December 2010, yesterday's third flight already had a certain feeling of routine to it. But not for me – the last time I flew with an airborne observatory (KAO, the predecessor to SOFIA) was in July 1987! On the morning of 7 December, the latest updated software packages, with the scientific objectives and the resulting flight plan, were loaded into the onboard computers and the FORCAST instrument was filled with liquid nitrogen and helium. The crew briefing at 1:45 pm briefly went over all aspects of the mission and last minute changes to the schedule, and then we embarked on the aircraft at 2:15 pm.
Alois Himmes
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Alois Himmes
 
 

Ground-based training for science with SOFIA

24. November 2010, 16.25
Shortly before the start of the first science flight with SOFIA, the mission crew trained for the sequence of in-flight operations. Pilots, technical staff and researchers simulated mission profiles with observation of an astronomical object, aircraft course alterations and changing to observe another celestial object, among other things. All the routines that occur on a regular basis during a science flight were rehearsed. This can involve changing the elevation of the telescope while at the same time tracking the position of the observatory door, finding and maintaining focus on a celestial object and the interaction of the various systems on board the aircraft.
Heinz-Theo Hammes
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Heinz-Theo Hammes
 
 

DLR-Webcast: SOFIA - the flying infrared observatory

26. May 2010, 16.15
The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, is a cooperative German-US space research project. The 2.7-metre telescope, housed in a Boeing 747SP, is designed to observe in the infrared. During flight, a four-by-six-metre door opens at the rear of the aircraft, through which the telescope can view the night sky. The plane is based in California; the telescope was designed and built in Germany.
Henning Krause
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Henning Krause
 
 

News about SOFIA

22. January 2010, 14.00
The SOFIA ‘flying observatory’, a collaboration between NASA and DLR, is making great progress. After two test flights in December 2009, a third successful flight was made on 15 January 2010. A brief news roundup.
Marco Trovatello
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Marco Trovatello