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Successful conclusion of the SOFIA mission


15 flights to carry out research into outer space

After around six weeks based at Cologne Bonn Airport, SOFIA, the world's only flying infrared observatory, took off today at 11:17 CET to head back to its home base in Palmdale, California. During this scientific campaign, which was also the first flight campaign of this kind in Germany, the mobile astronomical observatory – a joint undertaking between NASA and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) – completed a total of 15 research flights starting from Cologne Bonn. 
The research flights all took off in the early evening and the duration of the flights was between eight and nine hours. Starting out from the Rhineland region, SOFIA flew over the Atlantic, across Scandinavia and as far as the Mediterranean. The focus of the work was on investigations into the matter found in interstellar space and the way its chemistry is affected by cosmic radiation, as well as on gaining insights into the processes involved in the birth of massive stars. 

"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," explains Johan Vanneste, President & CEO of Cologne Bonn Airport.

Various different areas in Terminal 2 were made available and fitted out with suitable equipment for the approx. 150 employees from NASA and the DLR – from an "office area" with workplaces for a total of 95 employees and a "lab area" for workshop activities, through to storage areas for equipment needed for parking SOFIA. 

"At Cologne Bonn Airport, we were provided with the best possible conditions for our scientific campaign and we would like to thank the Airport sincerely for their amazing cooperation. Our researchers were able to carry out observations for almost 100% of the time that was available and we are now very excited to see what the analyses of their work will bring," says Dr Walther Pelzer, Member of the DLR Executive Board and Head of the German Space Agency.

After a flight lasting just over eleven hours, SOFIA will be expected in Palmdale today at around 2 pm local time.


SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a modified Boeing 747SP and is the only aircraft of its kind in the world. On this flying astronomical observatory, research is being carried out to find out how Milky Way systems develop and how stars and planetary systems are born from interstellar molecular clouds and dust clouds. This has all been made possible by a 17-tonne telescope with an aperture of 2.7 metres, which was developed and manufactured in Germany. 
During the flights from Cologne Bonn, SOFIA also had the German instrument GREAT on board – a high resolution spectrometer.
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is a collaboration project between the German Space Agency at the DLR and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

You can find further information, as well as photographic and video material, on

"Good Bye" SOFIA
"Good Bye" SOFIA


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