The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is the world’s largest airborne observatory, featuring a
2.5 meter effective aperture telescope housed in the aft section of a Boeing 747SP aircraft. SOFIA’s current instrument
suite includes: FORCAST (Faint Object InfraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope), a 5-40 μm dual band
imager/grism spectrometer developed at Cornell University; HIPO (High-speed Imaging Photometer for Occultations), a
0.3-1.1μm imager built by Lowell Observatory; GREAT (German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies), a
multichannel heterodyne spectrometer from 60-240 μm, developed by a consortium led by the Max Planck Institute for
Radio Astronomy; FLITECAM (First Light Infrared Test Experiment CAMera), a 1-5 μm wide-field imager/grism
spectrometer developed at UCLA; FIFI-LS (Far-Infrared Field-Imaging Line Spectrometer), a 42-200 μm IFU grating
spectrograph completed by University Stuttgart; and EXES (Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph), a 5-28 μm highresolution
spectrometer designed at the University of Texas and being completed by UC Davis and NASA Ames
Research Center. HAWC+ (High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera) is a 50-240 μm imager that was originally
developed at the University of Chicago as a first-generation instrument (HAWC), and is being upgraded at JPL to add
polarimetry and new detectors developed at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). SOFIA will continually update its
instrument suite with new instrumentation, technology demonstration experiments and upgrades to the existing
instrument suite. This paper details the current instrument capabilities and status, as well as the plans for future
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is an airborne observatory, carrying a 2.5 m telescope onboard a heavily modified Boeing 747SP aircraft. SOFIA is optimized for operation at infrared wavelengths, much of which is obscured for ground-based observatories by atmospheric water vapor. The SOFIA science instrument complement consists of seven instruments: FORCAST (Faint Object InfraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope), GREAT (German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies), HIPO (High-speed Imaging Photometer for Occultations), FLITECAM (First Light Infrared Test Experiment CAMera), FIFI-LS (Far-Infrared Field-Imaging Line Spectrometer), EXES (Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph), and HAWC (High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera). FORCAST is a 5–40 μm imager with grism spectroscopy, developed at Cornell University. GREAT is a heterodyne spectrometer providing high-resolution spectroscopy in several bands from 60–240 μm, developed at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. HIPO is a 0.3–1.1 μm imager, developed at Lowell Observatory. FLITECAM is a 1–5 μm wide-field imager with grism spectroscopy, developed at UCLA. FIFI-LS is a 42–210 μm integral field imaging grating spectrometer, developed at the University of Stuttgart. EXES is a 5–28 μm high-resolution spectrograph, developed at UC Davis and NASA ARC. HAWC is a 50–240 μm imager, developed at the University of Chicago, and undergoing an upgrade at JPL to add polarimetry capability and substantially larger GSFC detectors. We describe the capabilities, performance, and status of each instrument, highlighting science results obtained using FORCAST, GREAT, and HIPO during SOFIA Early Science observations conducted in 2011.
The Universe appears to be expanding at an accelerating rate, driven by a mechanism called Dark Energy. The nature of Dark Energy is largely unknown and needs to be derived from observation of its effects. JEDI (Joint Efficient Dark-energy Investigation) is a candidate implementation of the NASA-DOE Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM). It will probe the effects of Dark Energy in three independent ways: (1) using Type Ia supernovae as cosmological standard candles over a range of distances, (2) using baryon acoustic oscillations as a cosmological standard ruler over a range of cosmic epochs, and (3) mapping the weak gravitational lensing distortion by foreground galaxies of the images of background galaxies at different distances. JEDI provides crucial systematic error checks by simultaneously applying these three independent observational methods to derive the Dark Energy parameters. The concordance of the results from these methods will not only provide an unprecedented understanding of Dark Energy, but also indicate the reliability of such an understanding. JEDI will unravel the nature of Dark Energy by obtaining observations only possible from a vantage point in space, coupled with a unique instrument design and observational strategy. Using a 2 meter-class space telescope with simultaneous wide-field imaging (~ 1 deg2, 0.8 to 4.2 μm in five bands) and multi-slit spectroscopy (minimum wavelength coverage 1 to 2 μm), JEDI will efficiently execute the surveys needed to solve the mystery of Dark Energy.
The Spitzer Space Telescope is an 85-cm telescope with three cryogenically cooled instruments. Following launch, the observatory was initialized and commissioned for science operations during the in-orbit checkout (IOC) and science verification (SV) phases, carried out over a total of 98.3 days. The execution of the IOC/SV mission plan progressively established Spitzer capabilities taking into consideration thermal, cryogenic, optical, pointing, communications, and operational designs and constraints. The plan was carried out with high efficiency, making effective use of cryogen-limited flight time. One key component to the success of the plan was the pre-launch allocation of schedule reserve in the timeline of IOC/SV activities, and how it was used in flight both to cover activity redesign and growth due to continually improving spacecraft and instrument knowledge, and to recover from anomalies. This paper describes the adaptive system design and evolution, implementation, and lessons learned from IOC/SV operations.
The Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) observatory is an 85-cm telescope with three cryogenically cooled instruments. Following launch, the observatory will be initialized and commissioned for routine operations during a sixty-day period called In-Orbit Checkout (IOC), and a subsequent thirty-day period called Science Verification (SV). The emphasis for the IOC phase is to bring the observatory on-line safety and expeditiously, verify functionality of the instruments, telescope, and spacecraft, and demonstrate that the facility meets level-1 requirements. The emphasis of the SV phase is to characterize the observatory in-orbit performance, demonstrate capability for autonomous operations, conduct early release observations, and exercise the ground systems software, processes, and staffing sufficiently to commission the facility for routine operations.
The design of the IOC/SV phases is dominated by two unique features of the SIRTF mission: the solar orbit that affects the thermal design and the communications strategy, and the warm launch architecture whereby the telescope is outside the cryostat and radiatively cools in deep space. The key challenges of SIRTF are in the areas of optical, cryogenic, and pointing control performance, which have dependencies on the performance of the three instruments, and vice versa. In addition, the mission and science operations teams must face the challenge of operating a new space observatory and safely establishing autonomous operations in a very short time. This paper describes a nominal mission plan that progressively establishes SIRTF capabilities during the IOC/SV phases, taking into consideration thermal, cryogenic, optical, communications, celestial mechanics, and operational designs and constraints.