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Space Infrared Telescope Powers Up
First instrument data from the Space Infrared Telescope Facility travels home from space. Left: First instrument data from the Space Infrared Telescope Facility travels home from space.

The Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) completes NASA's family of Great Observatories. It was launched on 25 August 2003 into an earth-trailing (heliocentric) orbit. The telescope's dust cover was ejected on 29 August and the instrument cover was opened on 30 August. The liquid helium bath warmed slightly during the launch, and is now cooling as expected. It is currently at about 1.8 degrees Celsius above absolute zero. Over the first 45 days of the mission the telescope will cool to approximately -268 degrees Celsius (5 degrees above absolute zero). On about day 35 of the mission the observatory will be focused using the telescope's secondary mirror. All spacecraft systems are functioning nominally, and a systematic program of on-orbit characterization is underway.

The SIRTF mission operations are being conducted at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Denver, Colorado. The SIRTF science operations are being conducted at the SIRTF Science Center on the California Institute of Technology campus in Pasadena.

Over the course of the first few months of the mission the instruments will be powered on, characterized, and brought into service so that the normal science mission can begin at about 90 days after launch.

The first instrument power-on sequences were executed according to plan. The data were stored onboard and then transmitted to earth via the Deep Space Network of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The data were then sent to the SIRTF Science Center where they were immediately processed through the data reduction programs.

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