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NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, aircraft took to the skies above California's Mojave Desert Dec. 9 on its first flight since January 2008. The highly modified Boeing 747SP, carrying a German-built telescope to be used for infrared astronomy research, flew a functional check flight in restricted airspace near Edwards Air Force Base and the Dryden Flight Research Center.

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NASA plans to begin opening the telescope cavity door on its Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia) aircraft in-flight for the first time later this month following the successful completion of a functional check sortie from Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, California, on Dec. 9.
The modified Boeing 747SP, which was making its first flight since January 2008, incorporates a large enclosed cavity in the aft fuselage that houses a German-built telescope to be used for infrared astronomy research.

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SOFIA Seeks Secrets of Planetary Birth
Short for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA will observe the universe while gliding through the stratosphere at 45,000 feet. When it begins operations next year, it will be the world's biggest, most advanced airborne observatory.

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Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy approaches first light
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is in the final stages of development.

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UA astronomer will head NASA 747 observatory
Erick Young, a University of Arizona astronomer, will take his research to new heights in a Boeing 747SP.
It is a highly modified aircraft equipped with a 2.5-metre diameter infrared telescope.


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University of Arizona astronomer Erick Young, a widely recognized authority on infrared astronomy, has been appointed science mission operations director for NASA's Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, called SOFIA, the U.S. space agency announced yesterday.
NASA said that Young's appointment marks a major milestone for the airborne observatory, a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft fitted with a 2.5-meter/98-inch diameter infrared telescope.
SOFIA is slated to begin its "first light" observations in early winter 2009-2010 as part of the airborne telescope's 20-year celestial observation program.

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On behalf of NASA, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) has selected three astronomers to participate in the first scientific observations conducted by the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that carries a 2.5-meter (98-inch) diameter airborne infrared telescope.

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Engineers and technicians from NASA, the German Space Agency and the Deutsches SOFIA Institut recently reinstalled the German-built primary mirror assembly into NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).
Technicians removed the glass mirror from the modified Boeing 747SP airborne observatory in April 2008 and transported to NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., where it received its reflective aluminium coating in a vacuum chamber in June 2008. The coating, five one-millionths of an inch thick, will be reapplied as necessary during the 20-year life of the program.

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