Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)

Archibald

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Putting IR telescopes on aircraft (started with Learjets and CV-990 in 1968, moved to C-141 in 1974-95 and on a 747 thereafter) was a smart idea before IRAS (1983) and even after.

The gist of the idea was a serviceable telescope (aircraft can land and recover, unmanned sats can't) with man on the loop and that could also be refilled with liquid helium at -268°C if needed.

IRAS Spitzer all died (or became half-blind) when the supply of helium taking the heat away (IR astronomy hates parasitic heat) boiled away after months or years.

Webb goes around the issue by cooling itself passively, plus SEL-2 location.

I often wonder if SOFIA was (or not) a bridge too far after KAO ? (Kuiper Airborne observatory, on the civilian C-141 Lockheed never sold, except to NASA).
 

Flyaway

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That agreement was criticized in a May 3 statement by Deutsche SOFIA Institut (DSI), the German organization that handles operations of Germany’s share of SOFIA. DSI “distances itself from the justification for this decision,” complaining, as SOFIA’s American backers have previously said, that the decadal survey based its decision on old information and did not consider improvements intended to increase SOFIA’s efficiency.

Alfred Krabbe, head of DSI, said in the statement that he hopes Congress restores funding for SOFIA for at least one more year, adding that the James Webb Space Telescope cannot replace SOFIA since SOFIA operates at longer infrared wavelengths than what JWST can observe. Congress, he noted, has supported SOFIA in the past.
 

FighterJock

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That agreement was criticized in a May 3 statement by Deutsche SOFIA Institut (DSI), the German organization that handles operations of Germany’s share of SOFIA. DSI “distances itself from the justification for this decision,” complaining, as SOFIA’s American backers have previously said, that the decadal survey based its decision on old information and did not consider improvements intended to increase SOFIA’s efficiency.

Alfred Krabbe, head of DSI, said in the statement that he hopes Congress restores funding for SOFIA for at least one more year, adding that the James Webb Space Telescope cannot replace SOFIA since SOFIA operates at longer infrared wavelengths than what JWST can observe. Congress, he noted, has supported SOFIA in the past.

I hope that Congress release funding for one more year of SOFIA operations. Though I am surprised that the German government have not bought SOFIA and used it in conjunction with ESA.
 
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