In accordance with Policy 9 of the Science Utilization Policies for SOFIA, the NASA SMD Astrophysics Director Dr. Paul Hertz decided to retire the FLITECAM Facility-class Science Instrument, effective February 2018. The decision was also made to remove the Special-purpose Science Instrument HIPO from the list of SOFIA supported instruments.

The First Light Infrared TEst CAMera (FLITECAM) was a Facility class Science Instrument.

Principal Investigator for Instrument Development: Ian McLean 
Instrument Team Page

FLITECAM was an infrared camera operating in the 1.0 - 5.5 μm waveband. It consisted of a 1024x1024 InSb detector with 0.475''x0.475'' pixels and used refractive optics to provide an 8' diameter field of view. The instrument had a set of filters for imaging, and grisms for moderate resolution spectroscopy. The filter suite consisted of standard Barr filters used for imaging at J, H, K, L and M in one filter wheel. A second filter wheel held a selection of narrow-band imaging filters including Pa-α, Pa-α continuum, 3.07 μm H2O ice, 3.3 μm PAH, L-narrow and M-narrow. Additionally there were order sorting filters for use with the grisms. A selection of three grisms was available to provide medium resolution (R ≈ 1500) spectra over the entire wavelength range.

FLITECAM could be co-mounted with the High Speed Imaging Photometer for Occultations (HIPO) providing simultaneous optical and near-infrared imaging.

Examples of FLITECAM scientific observations and summary of specifications: FLITECAM flyer

Past editions of the Observer's Handbook provide useful information for performing calculations with FLITECAM and HIPO data:

Cycle 6 FLITECAM Chapter of Observer's HandbookCycle 6 HIPO Chapter of Observer's Handbook

Cycle 5 FLITECAM Chapter of Observer's HandbookCycle 5 HIPO Chapter of Observer's Handbook

FLITECAM Scientific/Technical Abstract and Additional References


FLITECAM and HIPO instruments in FLIPO configuration

FLITECAM and HIPO instruments in FLIPO configuration


Name of Instrument
FLITECAM - First Light Infrared Test Eperiment CAMera

Instrument type
Near IR Test Camera
1-5 microns

Principal Investigator
Dr. Ian McLean:
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy
University of California
405 Hilgard Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1562

Instrument Team Pages

Scientific/Technical Abstract

FLITECAM is designed to test the SOFIA telescope assembly imaging and infrared background quality. FLITECAM will provide seeing-limited imaging from 1 - 3 µm and diffraction-limited imaging from 3 - 5.5 µm to cover science applications motivated by good atmospheric transmission and low thermal background. FLITECAM will also provide moderate resolution spectroscopy from 1 to 5.5 µm. FLITECAM will operate simultaneously with the Special Class Instrument HIPO (High-speed Imaging Photometer for Occultations) on SOFIA.

Additional References

Smith & McLean, "Grism spectroscopy with FLITECAM," Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy, Ian S. McLean & Masanori Iye, Editors, Proc. SPIE 6269, 62691I (2006), DOI: 10.1117/12.672174

McLean et al., "FLITECAM: a 1-5 micron camera and spectrometer for SOFIA," Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy, Ian S. McLean & Masanori Iye, Editors, Proc. SPIE 6269, 62695B (2006), DOI: 10.1117/12.672173 [pdf]

Mainzer et al., "Characterization of FLITECAM: the first light camera for SOFIA," Airborne Telescope Systems II, Ramsey K. Melugin & Hans-Peter Roeser, Editors, Proc. SPIE 4857, 21 (2003), DOI: 10.1117/12.458635 [pdf]

Smith & McLean, "Ground-based commissioning of FLITECAM," Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy II, Ian S. McLean & Mark M. Casali, Editors, Proc. SPIE 7014, 701411 (2008), DOI: 10.1117/12.788693 [pdf]