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SOFIA Prepares for 'Short Science' with FORCAST, FAST cameras
Cornell University’s Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope Cornell University’s Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope, or FORCAST, is mounted on the telescope during preparation leading to Short Science flights. (NASA / Tom Tschida) The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy’s 747SP was rolled out of its hangar in Palmdale, Calif., on several nights in mid-October for ground-based telescope activities that concluded on Oct. 24. These tests of the individual subsystems and the entire integrated observatory system were in preparation for upcoming early astronomical science flights.

A Cornell University team, under the direction of principal investigator Terry Herter, developed the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope, or FORCAST, now mounted on the German-built telescope. FORCAST participated in evaluation of recent upgrades to the Mission Control and Communication System, or MCCS, a hardware and software system used by the on-board crew and scientists to control the flying observatory.

Within the MCCS is the Mission Control Subsystem, a software suite that monitors and controls the telescope assembly and ensures the telescope and the cavity door are positioned correctly. SOFIA scientists and engineers also assessed the pointing stability of the telescope assembly and accuracy of line-of-sight resets.

Researchers check the alignment of FORCAST instrument to the SOFIA telescope's secondary mirror. Terry Herter, principal investigator for Cornell University’s FORCAST instrument, and Cornell research associate Joe Adams check the alignment of the instrument to the SOFIA telescope's secondary mirror during nighttime, ground-based checkout operations. (NASA / Tom Tschida) Additional nighttime ground operations testing occurred Nov. 2 and 3 using the Fast Diagnostic Camera developed by the German SOFIA Institute, University of Stuttgart, under the leadership of Juergen Wolf. This testing is a rehearsal for the upcoming observatory characterization flights scheduled for mid-November when operation of the entire observatory system will be checked out. The "Short Science" flight series will follow these two flights.

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Beth Hagenauer
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center