PR Contact: Suraiya Farukhi
Universities Space Research Association
Columbia, Maryland, March 15, 2017 - Universities Space Research Association (USRA), headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, has been awarded a contract to provide NASA with science and mission operations support for its Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) program. The contract covers a 5-year base period followed by six two year options for a total of approximately $514 million. The period of performance begins on May 1, 2017 including a 60-day phase-in.
USRA will continue to bring its recognized expertise in managing successful science and mission operations support for SOFIA—the largest airborne astronomical observatory featuring a far-infrared telescope mounted in the rear fuselage of a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft. It will also provide the technical and management guidance of the combined USRA and Deutsches SOFIA Institut (DSI) staff and research equipment to maximize the productivity of the observatory.
"We are honored by NASA's continued confidence in USRA's technical leadership. It's been central to everything we do for almost 50 years," said Dr. Jeffrey Isaacson, USRA President and CEO. "As we support this important program going forward, we will work with NASA and the international scientific community to provide the broadest possible access to the observatory. At the same time, we will continue to implement innovative approaches that increase science productivity and improve efficiency."
SOFIA's mission is to conduct high quality research and deliver cutting edge technology and instrumentation. It offers routine access to the infrared, far infrared, and sub-millimeter parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Flying above 99 percent of the water vapor in the atmosphere, SOFIA facilitates observations that are unobtainable from telescopes on the ground. And because it can operate from airports around the world, exchange instruments between flights and implement new upgraded capabilities, it affords a unique adaptability.
"USRA is excited to continue its role leading the Science Mission Operations," said Dr. Nicholas White, Senior Vice President, Science at USRA. "SOFIA is now in its full stride delivering results to understand our cosmic origins. This airborne observatory provides not only access to the key far-infrared band to observe planets, stars and galaxies, but unlike most space missions, the instruments can be renewed to ensure the observatory remains at the cutting edge."
Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, Universities Space Research Association is an independent, nonprofit research corporation which offers an avenue for government and industry to engage the expertise of the academic community together with USRA's own technical leadership, innovative R&D, operational excellence, management of premier facilities and education programs to advance space- and aeronautics-related sciences and exploration. USRA works across disciplines including biomedicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations to develop and deliver sophisticated, forward-looking solutions to Federal agencies and other government sponsors.
The SOFIA Program is executed jointly at two NASA centers. Flight operations and maintenance of the SOFIA aircraft are managed at the agency's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California. Program and science operations are managed at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. SOFIA is a joint NASA and German Space Agency, Deutches Zentrum fur Luft-und Raumfahrt (DLR) program.
SOFIA in flight. Courtesy of NASA.