I have arrived here in Palmdale, CA. This is a new place for me, so it has a share of expectations. Palmdale, just 50 miles north-east-ish of Los Angeles is home to the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility or DAOF, for short. Upon arrival, I learned that NASADryden Flight Research Center itself is about another 40 minute drive away, so time permitting, I’d like to check out that sister center.
I’ve rendezvoused with two colleagues from Cornell and Ithaca College who have both flown on SOFIA and also have put in so many hours to make the FORCAST instrument a success. They are eager to get back to operations & science observations again. I’ve also met two graduate students, one who has flown already and another, just as green-as-me, this being his first time to Palmdale and checking out the *Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy* for himself.
Today marks a special occasion for me to see SOFIA in all her shiny-white-paint with an organized crew getting her ready for this week of line operations, or line ops. The reality is intense. One can read about things on the internet or in papers, but to actually see the physical metal, glimpse at her sleek curves, observe the crews keeping her safe and airworthy, is something else. And that’s just the outside.
The science instrument FORCAST, a mid-infrared instrument, is already installed and had its latest cryogen fill this morning.
Tonight, line operations are scheduled from 11pm-5am and I can share what I learn. Until then, pieces of the complex set of what goes into operating a facility such as SOFIA,are slowly coming into place.
For now, I just cannot help staring at this amazing beauty.
747SP, the SP means “Special Performance.”