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Thread: 747 turned into flying observatory - GIF and photos

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    Jon
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    747 turned into flying observatory - GIF and photos

    The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an airborne observatory project by NASA and the German Aerospace Center. The advantage of putting a telescope in a 747 is that you can get above much of Earth's atmosphere and water vapor, and of course you can travel to any point on the planet.








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    Wasn't there talk of doing this from a lighter than air platform by mounting an observatory atop of 2 blimp like aircraft several years ago?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank S View Post
    Wasn't there talk of doing this from a lighter than air platform by mounting an observatory atop of 2 blimp like aircraft several years ago?
    Nothing shows up on the Nasa site history of SOFIA...but I do remember something about twin balloons/blimps, just not sure it was for SOFIA though.
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    I can't help but wonder about the air turbulence created by having the big opening in the side of the plane at speed and altitude.
    And what about cabin pressure. I don't see any pressure bulkhead between the telescope and the rest of the cabin
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    They must not be much over 10k feet...no masks and open door. I thought maybe there might be a barrier wall between the telescope and the Scientist. Would imagine there is some serious gyro stabilization on the telescope too, which might add difficulty to the pilots maneuverability of the plane?? Although 747 have some pretty sophisticated system...
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    I agree with you PJs Also calling this the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a misnomer at the equator the stratosphere might start as high as 66,000 ft Only a couple of military designed planes could fly at that altitude. At mid latitudes say those over the Middle of the United States the stratosphere starts around 33,000 ft. Most commercial planes can reach that altitude but require pressurization for us mere humans to live. Near the poles it starts around 23,000 ft. only experienced mountain climbers attempt to brave those altitudes without oxygen for short periods of time.
    So in my mind if there is no pressurized bulkhead separation then the people on the plane would require pressurized suits and breathing equipment to preform their duties if indeed this is a stratospheric observatory.
    I maintain that it is a tropospheric observatory and many of those already exist on high mountain tops so other than being mobile able to say follow an eclipse what good is it?
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    Upon further rabbit hole on this I found they actually fly between 39kft and 45kft and around 500mi/hr (434knots). Which made me take a look at the above pics and the ones on the SOFIA site to look at this idea of a bulkhead. I now believe what we are seeing in the picture above is in fact that bulkhead and the stuff we see are cameras and instruments attached to the 100" scope and likely feed through optics of some type, then to the scientists in the pressurized cabin at their stations.

    Here is a quote from the Sofia video page:

    "Inside NASA's SOFIA Airborne Astronomical Observatory
    As the world's largest flying observatory, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, is a unique space-science asset. SOFIA incorporates a 19-ton German-built telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters in a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that flies astronomical science missions at altitudes between 39,000 and 45,000 feet, above 99 percent of the infrared-blocking water vapor in the atmosphere. Capable of conducting observations in visible through far-infrared spectra from any part of the globe, SOFIA provides access to a spectral region not currently accessible by ground or space telescopes. A joint program of NASA and the German Aerospace Center DLR, the SOFIA observatory is based at NASA's Science and Aircraft Integration Facility in Palmdale, Calif., a satellite facility of the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. NASA's Ames Research Center manages the science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association and the Deutsches SOFIA Institut. SOFIA's Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program provides educators hands-on experience as they work with scientists during missions on the flying observatory."

    Here is the YT video...11:25 and worth the watch to answer some of these questions and more.



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    You're right that does explain a lot and confirms my assertion that it had to be bulk headed if not the turbulence in the cabin even at lower speeds and altitudes would have been unbearable working conditions for any scientific study.

    I also think that an ELEO (Extreme low Earth orbit) platform possibly floating on pontoons of helium or hydrogen. it it were made large enough to incorporate a landing of better yet soft docking facility then crews could fly up works for a few hours days or weeks and fly back down.
    I suppose one could even be made large enough to serve as a recreational vacation type facility. with scientific research its primary purpose the tourism trade could supplement or possibly completely offset the cost of operation.


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