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Session 11 - VLBI & Radio Instrumentation.
Display session, Wednesday, January 07
Exhibit Hall,

[11.02] First Space VLBI Observations and Images Using the VLBA and VSOP

J. D. Romney, J. M. Benson, M. J. Claussen, K. M. Desai, C. Flatters, A. J. Mioduszewski, J. S. Ulvestad (NRAO)

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is a participant in the VSOP Space VLBI mission, an international collaboration led by Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science. NRAO has committed up to 30% of scheduled observing time on the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), and corresponding correlation resources, to Space VLBI observations. The NRAO Space VLBI Project, funded by NASA, has been working for several years to complete the necessary enhancements to the VLBA correlator and the AIPS image processing system.

These developments were completed by the time of the successful launch of the VSOP mission's Halca spacecraft on 1997 February 12. As part of the in-orbit checkout phase, the first Space VLBI fringes from a VLBA observation were detected on 1997 June 12, and the VSOP mission's first images, in both the 1.6- and 5-GHz bands, were obtained shortly thereafter. In-orbit test observations continued through early September, with the first General Observing Time (GOT) scientific observations beginning in July. Through mid-October, a total of 20 Space VLBI observations, comprising 190 hours, had been completed at the VLBA correlator.

This paper reviews the unique features of correlation and imaging of Space VLBI observations. These include, for correlation, the ephemeris for an orbiting VLBI ``station'' which is not fixed on the surface of the earth, and the requirement to close the loop on the phase-transfer process from a frequency standard on the ground to the spacecraft.

Images from a number of early tests and scientific observations are presented. NRAO's user-support program, providing expert assistance in data analysis to Space VLBI observers, is also described.

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