SOFIA, the airborne observatory in search of extraterrestrial worlds

SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is the first airborne telescope that can be used to observe and study space from any point in the stratosphere – and therefore to explore all parts of the universe.

SOFIA airborne telescope

2009–present | SOFIA is a joint project between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Its aim is to understand, based on interstellar gas and dust clouds, how galaxies develop and how stars and planetary systems form and change. A telescope's performance is above all based on the quality of the secondary mirror mechanism (M2). CSEM designed and delivered a complete and highly accurate guidance and control system for this mirror, which has a diameter of 350 mm. The system centers and focuses the telescope's light beam and pilots the telescope's rapid tip/tilt movements.

In 2014, CSEM was commissioned to build a complete back-up secondary mirror, updated to meet current FAA flight standards.

Since its maiden flight in April 2007, SOFIA has lifted the veil on many mysteries including the detection in 2016 of atomic oxygen in Mars's atmosphere. Most recently, in January 2020, SOFIA discovered the various phases in the Swan Nebula's inception.

Following its entry into service in December 2010, SOFIA is expected to pursue its quest for other worlds for at least another decade.

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