With F/A-18 #850 as chase, SOFIA goes on it's
second checkout flight from Waco, TX.
Photo: NASA/Jim Ross
5/21/2007 - WACO, Texas – NASA dedicated a unique
astronomy aircraft Monday to pioneering aviator
Charles Lindbergh on the 80th anniversary of his
historic transatlantic flight. Erik Lindbergh, the
pilot's grandson, joined NASA for the event May 21, in
NASA's new Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared
Astronomy (SOFIA) is a highly modified 747 airliner
that carries a 45,000-pound infrared telescope system.
Pan American Airways originally christened the plane
the "Clipper Lindbergh" in 1977. At the rededication
ceremony, NASA officials discussed the similarities
between Lindbergh's accomplishments and SOFIA's
potential to capture scientifically important infrared
images unavailable to earthbound telescopes. The SOFIA
aircraft was modified at L-3 Systems in Waco and is
wrapping up a series of functional checkout flights
before heading to NASA's Dryden Flight Research
Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for further
tests and systems integration.
Erik Lindbergh unveiled a plaque commemorating
Clipper Lindbergh. "This project is a fantastic blend
of a 20th century legacy aircraft and a 21st century
platform for exploration," he said.
Intended to fly above 40,000 feet, SOFIA will place
its infrared telescope above nearly 99 percent of the
Earth's atmospheric water vapor, greatly enhancing its
abilities to study the cosmos. Its state-of-the-art
telescope will be able to carry out scientific
missions with greater flexibility and ease of upgrade
than a satellite-borne observatory.
NASA's partner in SOFIA is the German Aerospace
Center, which provided the telescope. NASA modified
the aircraft. A 16-foot-high opening has been cut into
the aft fuselage to permit observations to be made at
altitude. Once it arrives at Dryden, SOFIA will
continue flight and systems testing for about two
years while its observatory system hardware and
software are integrated with the aircraft. The
telescope's first images are expected in 2009.
Source: NASA Dryden Press Release