Cologne Bonn celebrates SOFIA success

The aircraft was able to carry out 15 research flights during its six-week stay at the German facility

Yesterday (March 16), SOFIA – the world’s only flying infrared observatory – took off to return to its home base in Palmdale, California, after spending six weeks at Cologne Bonn Airport.

This scientific flight campaign was the first of its kind in Germany. The aircraft is part of a project aided by NASA and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and completed 15 research flights which all began at the Cologne base. 

The duration of each flight was around eight to nine hours and all took off in the early evening. The mission began from the Rhineland region, then consisted of SOFIA flying out across the Atlantic and across Scandinavia – travelling as far as the Mediterranean.

Photo Cologne Bonn Airport

“There has been a lot of enthusiasm surrounding SOFIA, not only here but also from her countless fans across Germany – the resonance on social media has been huge. Our collaboration with NASA and the DLR went very smoothly and we are really proud of the achievements of our entire team. We would definitely be happy to collaborate on future projects,” said Johan Vanneste, president and CEO of Cologne Bonn Airport.

SOFIA was used to launch investigations into the matter found in interstellar space and the way in which its chemistry can be affected by cosmic radiation. Scientists also wanted to gain insights into the processes involved in the birth of large stars.

Areas throughout Terminal 2 were fitted with the relevant equipment needed for the campaign, including space for around 150 employees. An office area was implemented for around 95 of the employees working there, plus an extra lab space for workshop activities.

The aircraft is a modified Boeing 747SP and is the only one of its kind in the world. SOFIA is also equipped with a high-resolution spectrometer known as GREAT.