SOFIA Return to Flight Delayed

Updated March 30, 2018

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, remains in Hamburg, Germany, to address a repair that was discovered during a routine inspection and repair cycle, known as a C-Check.

The observatory was slated to return on Jan. 8, 2018, however, after completion of the inspection and maintenance by technicians at Lufthansa Tecknik AG, a fuel leak was discovered where the outer engine on the left side attaches to the wing. To return to flight operations, the wing fuel-tank leak must be addressed in accordance with safety requirements.

As a result of this issue, Boeing, the aircraft’s manufacturer, has directed that all four engine pylon locations be examined. To accomplish this, some internal parts of the wing must be removed to gain access for inspection and repair of identified fuel tank leaks. The repair process will involve removal of sealant, structural repair, re-application of sealant, reassembly of the internal wing structure, and leak-testing of all wing tanks. It is anticipated that this work will take five weeks to accomplish.

Following a functional check flight, the ferry flight back to the United States is not expected before May 8. SOFIA will resume science flights shortly after its return to NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s aircraft operations facility in Palmdale, California.

Impacts to the observatory’s science schedule are currently being assessed. The observatory’s science schedule is currently being re-planned and the new science program will be started when SOFIA returns to flight operations. The new science program will include contingency flight dates built into SOFIA’s schedule.


March 8, 2018

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, remains in Hamburg, Germany, to address a repair that was discovered during a routine inspection and repair cycle, known as a C-Check.

After completion of the inspection and maintenance by technicians at Lufthansa Tecknik AG, a fuel leak was discovered where the outer engine on the left side attaches to the wing. To return to flight operations, this must be addressed in accordance to safety requirements.

The flying observatory has been delayed since January to address a number of repairs. SOFIA is currently scheduled to depart Germany before the end of March, and will resume science flights shortly after its return to NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s aircraft operations facility in Palmdale, California.

Impacts to the observatory’s science schedule are currently being assessed and will be mitigated through contingency flight dates built into SOFIA’s schedule.

SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center's Hangar 703, in Palmdale, California.

For More Information

For more information about SOFIA, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/sofia • http://www.dlr.de/en/sofia

For information about SOFIA's science mission and scientific instruments, visit:
http://www.sofia.usra.edu • http://www.dsi.uni-stuttgart.de/index.en.html

Points of Contact

Nicholas A. Veronico
650.224.8726 cell
Nicholas.A.Veronico@nasa.gov

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