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NASA Begins Search for Potential SOFIA Partners

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 14:40

NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) soliciting potential partners interested in using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft for scientific investigations or for other potential uses.

NASA's Fiscal Year 2015 budget request to Congress calls for SOFIA to be placed in storage next year unless the agency's contribution to the project can be replaced.

Various partnership levels will be considered. Partnerships can range from joining as a major partner to securing flights on a night-by-night basis. Costs are estimated at approximately $1 million per night for a dedicated mission. Due to the current budget situation, partnership arrangements would be initiated immediately in order to be in place prior to 1 October 2014. Potential partners are invited to submit their interest or questions in writing as soon as possible, but prior to 1 May 2014.

The RFI is available at

SOFIA is the world's largest airborne astronomical observatory, complementing NASA's space telescopes, as well as major Earth-based telescopes. It features a German-built far-infrared telescope with an effective diameter of 100 inches (2.5 meters). The telescope weighs 19 tons (38,000 lb.) and is mounted in the rear fuselage of a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft.

Flying at altitudes of between 39,000 and 45,000 feet (12 and 14 kilometers) and above 99% of the water vapor in the atmosphere, SOFIA facilitates observations that are unobtainable from telescopes on the ground. Because SOFIA can fly virtually anywhere in the world, change instruments between flights, and implement new capabilities, it provides greater adaptability than any space-based telescope.

SOFIA is a joint program of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR). The program is managed and the aircraft is based at Armstrong Flight Research Center. NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association in Columbia, Md., and the Deutsches SOFIA Institut in Stuttgart, Germany.

 Adapted from a NASA press release.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society