Science enabled by the platforms of Air & Space

I’m out here at NASA Dryden’s Aircraft Operations Facility,the DAOF, to support line operations for the Stratospheric Observatory forInfrared Astronomy, SOFIA. I’m normally a spacecraft science instrumentbuilder, having previously tested detectors for astronomy space telescopes Spitzerand JWST and building, testing and operating a 10 instrument payload for LCROSSthat impacted the moon in 2009 detecting water within a permanently shadowedcrater. And since 2011, I am working instrument calibration operations for theen-flight probe to Pluto, New Horizons.

Thus, SOFIA, being an aircraft, is a very different experiencefor me, coming from the spacecraft side of the house.

Sitting in the DAOF with SOFIA are some of the world’spremiere aircraft used for Earth Science observations, measuring in-situmolecules in our planet’s atmosphere, capitalizing on a mobile platform thatcan go monitor fires, or survey ice sheets at the poles, or observe transientphenomena like meteor showers or spacecraft or space-sample return capsules.

Check out this amazing suite of aircraft and theirobjectives at NASA’s Airborne Science Program:

NASA’s Airborne Science Program

Tonight we roll out ~8pm local time for first night of lineops from the 11pm-5am shift. I’m very eager to experience this important prep-activityfor SOFIA commissioning science flights which start next week.

More information about SOFIA's unique science can be found at NASA SOFIA Web Page

Author: Kimberly Ennico

Dr Kimberly Ennico Smith is a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center. Trained with a PhD in astrophysics, with an emphasis on astronomical instrumentation, Kimberly serves several NASA missions in a mission or instrument scientist role. At present she is Deputy Project Scientist New Horizons Pluto Fly-by Mission; Instrument Scientist Regolith & Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) Near-Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System; and Instrument Scientist Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy Mode for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) FORCAST Instrument. She is also Principal Investigator for a small-sat collapsible telescope design and is actively working to mature low-cost, quick turn-around suborbital and balloon payloads that deliver focused science measurements and promote broader hands-on experience.