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. These two instruments will therefore not be offered in future calls, nor be available for DDT proposals.

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

Principal Investigator for Instrument Development: Ian McLean 
Instrument Team Page

FLITECAM is an infrared camera operating in the 1.0 - 5.5 μm waveband. It consists of a 1024x1024 InSb detector with 0.475''x0.475'' pixels and uses refractive optics to provide an 8' diameter field of view. The instrument has a set of filters for imaging, and grisms for moderate resolution spectroscopy. The filter suite consists of standard Barr filters used for imaging at J, H, K, L and M in one filter wheel. A second filter wheel holds 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 are order sorting filters for use with the grisms. A selection of three grisms is available to provide medium resolution (R ≈ 1500) spectra over the entire wavelength range.

FLITECAM can 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]