NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) mission is set to end operations by September 30, 2022 after discussions with its partners at the German Space Agency at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR). This mission used a modified Boeing 747SP airplane that carries a reflecting telescope, and currently, it completed its five-year prime mission in 2019 and now finishing a three-year extension.
The discussions for ending the mission came about after the National Academies’ Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 evaluated SOFIA. It concluded that SOFIA’s science productivity does not justify its operating costs, while the plane’s capabilities do not significantly overlap with the science priorities the Decadal Survey has identified for the next decade and beyond. On a related note, the Boeing 777X foldable wing jetliner is still being tested.
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Moving forward, SOFIA’s data will be available in NASA’s public archives for astronomers worldwide to use. NASA will continue to advance the future of scientific discovery in infrared astrophysics, starting with the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope, as well as further opportunities recommended by the Decadal Survey,” said NASA.