January 8, 2014

FIFI-LS Spectrometer Readied for NASA’s SOFIA Observatory

Christian Fischer, from the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Space Systems, works on the Field-Imaging Far-Infrared Line Spectrometer, or FIFI-LS, in the NASA SOFIA science laboratory prior to testing in preparation for the first observing flights in spring 2014.

The Field-Imaging Far-Infrared Line Spectrometer instrument was shipped from Germany to the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., in November 2013.

After the instrument arrived at the Dryden facility, several months of preparations began for its operation aboard SOFIA, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.

The first science observing flights with FIFI-LS are currently scheduled for March 2014.

Being a so-called 3-D spectrometer, FIFI-LS uses SOFIA’s valuable observing time in a quite efficient way by obtaining images and spectroscopic information simultaneously using a rather complicated mirror system. Only the huge amount of information gathered by FIFI-LS may allow astronomers to identify and understand particular physical processes in the universe. Working at a wavelength range between 45 and 210 microns, the instrument can investigate the interstellar medium and star formation regions in our Milky Way as well as in other nearby galaxies.

FIFI-LS was originally developed by the Max-Planck-Institut Für Extraterrestrische Physik in Garching, Germany under the leadership of Albrecht Poglitsch, but was transferred to Alfred Krabbe’s group at the Institute for Space Systems of the University of Stuttgart in Germany in September. During the past few years, project manager Sebastian Colditz and his team finalized, integrated and aligned the last optical components in the SOFIA laboratory facility of the Baden-Württemberg Space Center before the completed instrument was transformed into flight-certified hardware. In the most extreme case, FIFI-LS might have to endure nine times the force of gravity on Earth’s surface; hence NASA has very high flight safety requirements that must be fulfilled.

FIFI-LS was cooled seven times by liquid nitrogen and helium down to a temperature of minus 271°C to test all components under operating conditions.

Christian Fischer checks the FIFI-LS that is cooled by liquid nitrogen and helium during testing. The University of Stuttgart 3D spectrometer will investigate the interstellar medium and star formation regions of the Milky Way when installed in the SOFIA flying observatory.

During the last two weeks of October, Colditz and his colleagues were quite busy — some last plugs had to be brazed, screws had to be tightened again, and finally the instrument and some laboratory equipment had to be stored safely for transportation. On Oct. 29 the so-called “Pre-shipment Review Board“ led by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) declared: “All-clear! FIFI-LS is ready for shipment to California.” All in all, about two tons of equipment was shipped to the Dryden facility in Palmdale, Calif., arriving the last week of November.

Principal investigator Alfred Krabbe and his colleagues will be busy conducting final tests on the ground as well as on SOFIA to make FIFI-LS ready for its first flight on board the airborne observatory. The first commissioning flights for FIFI-LS on board SOFIA are currently scheduled for February 2014 when the instrument will record its “first light”.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the DLR. The aircraft is based at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., a satellite facility of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, which manages the SOFIA program. NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart.

All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.



NASA tests software that may help increase flight efficiency, decrease aircraft noise

NASA researchers Dec. 12 began flight tests of computer software that shows promise in improving flight efficiency and reducing environmental impacts of aircraft, especially on communities around airports. Known as ASTAR, or Airborne Spacing for Terminal Arrival Routes, the software is designed to give pilots specific speed information and guidance so that planes can be...

Help U.S. cope with climate change: Enter NASA-USGS data app challenge

NASA in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey is offering more than $35,000 in prizes to citizen scientists for ideas that make use of climate data to address vulnerabilities faced by the United States in coping with clim...

Event introduces attendees to NASA’s aviation contributions

  NASA is transforming aviation by reducing aircraft environmental impacts, enhancing safety and leading the way in revolutionary new technologies. Those are some of the key ideas from a two-day NASA Aeronautics Research M...

KMel Robotics photograph

Researchers test insect-inspired robots

KMel Robotics photograph These nano-quads are the size that the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Micro-Autonomous Systems Technology consortium of researchers envision. The current state is about as compact as a microwave oven. &n...
NASA photograph

NASA teams with South Korean agency to further improve air traffic management

NASA photograph Jaiwon Shin, NASAís associate administrator for Aeronautics Research, and Jaeboong Lee, president of the Korea Agency for Infrastructure Technology Advancement, signed an agreement Nov. 17, 2014 in Seoul, South...

Air Force funds research on thermal management technology for fighter aircraft

Managing heat that is generated by electronic subsystems in next-generation aircraft is a vexing challenge for aerospace system designers. In the interest of meeting this challenge, the Air Force recently provided follow-on funding for a Small Business Innovation Research effort that is identifying improved methods for heat conduction and rejection from system electronics for advanced...


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>