The flying observatory
SOFIA visits Lufthansa Technik for another major check
The flying observatory SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) has arrived at Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg, Germany, for another scheduled maintenance check.
At home with Lufthansa Technik
SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP and a joint project of the U.S. space agency NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart coordinates the operation of SOFIA on the German side. Arriving in Hamburg, Germany, in mid-November 2017, the aircraft is now undergoing a C-check by Lufthansa Technik's experts in the VIP & Special Mission Aircraft Services division. A C-check is the biggest regularly scheduled maintenance event for an aircraft other than a complete overhaul. In the case of this special aircraft, the maintenance will be carried out in accordance with NASA regulations. During the check in Hamburg, the aircraft's structure will be thoroughly inspected and repaired, where necessary.
Trusting the broadest experience in 747 maintenance
Already in 2014, SOFIA was scheduled for a major overhaul (D-check), which was also completed at Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg. Then as now, Lufthansa Technik's extensive experience with Boeing 747SP aircraft was the decisive factor. Only few Boeing 747SP ("Special Performance") aircraft are still in service worldwide. The 747SP has a significantly shorter fuselage but features the same performance, enabling it to fly a lot higher, up to an altitude of 12 to 14 kilometers, than the other 747 versions. In Europe, Lufthansa Technik is the only company certified to carry out technical work on this type of aircraft.
The only flying observatory
SOFIA is the world's only flying observatory, and in the course of its scientific flights has, amongst other things, investigated how Milky Way systems develop and why stars and planetary systems developed out of interstellar molecular and dust clouds. SOFIA was extensively modified for its scientific task, with special electronic systems being added. Also, a four by six-meter door in the fuselage was added for the telescope which was integrated into the fuselage. The 17-ton telescope with a mirror diameter of 2.7 meters that was developed in Germany and commissioned by the DLR space management. SOFIA is like a space observatory, except that after every flight it returns to Earth.