SOFIA flying observatory (Credit: NASA-Jim Ross)
by Douglas MessierManaging Editor
NASA’s flying Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has struggled to meet its scientific expectations due to a lengthy development delay and a series of technical, operational and managerial challenges, according to a new audit from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).
“Although responsible for several first-of-its-kind discoveries, SOFIA’s 13-year development delay reduced the Program’s ability to produce impactful science in a cost-effective manner, particularly when compared to the cost of and science produced by other infrared observatories that launched in the interim,” the report said.
“Further, SOFIA has not fully utilized its unique capabilities to serve as an instrument test bed due to high instrument development costs, or to fly anytime anywhere because of a lack of instrument scheduling flexibility, the amount of time necessary to switch out instruments, and the prioritization of observations with greater scientific significance,” the document added.
SOFIA is a flying telescope that uses a modified Boeing 747. The observatory is a joint program with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and is operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and German SOFIA Institute.
Despite attempts ...