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SOFIA Observatory Completes German Deployment
NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, departed Joint Base Andrews, Md., on Sept. 23, 2011 at 3:15 p.m. EDT en route to its home base at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. The flight to Palmdale concluded SOFIA's first international deployment.

The SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that carries a German-built infrared telescope with a 100-inch (2.5-meter) reflecting mirror that conducts astronomy research not possible with ground-based telescopes.

The SOFIA 747 left Palmdale on Sept. 16, flying a science mission while en route to Cologne, Germany. The flying observatory was open to the German public on Sept. 18 during German Aerospace Day hosted by the German Aerospace Center at the Cologne-Bonn Airport. The SOFIA then flew to Stuttgart, home of the University of Stuttgart's German SOFIA Institute. The aircraft could be seen from the terminal, and tours were given to staff, students, and guests of the German SOFIA Institute.

The flying observatory then flew a science mission back to the United States, landing at Joint Base Andrews on Sept. 21. Here, SOFIA staff and scientists gave tours to students from military families as part of the White House's "Joining Forces" initiative.

SOFIA did not conduct science observations during its return flight to Palmdale, however, it will resume astronomical science mission operations on Sept. 28.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and is based and managed at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.

For more information about SOFIA, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/sofia

For information about SOFIA's science mission, visit: http://www.sofia.usra.edu and http://www.dlr.de/en/sofia

Cathy Weselby /Nicholas A. Veronico
Ames Research Center/SOFIA Science Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

 650-604-4789 /650-604-4589; cell 650/224-8726
cathy.weselby@nasa.gov / nveronico@sofia.usra.edu

Beth Hagenauer Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.