Nearly 3 meters in diameter and a weight of 20 tons. That's the Telescope installed inside a Boeing 747. It is used by the American Space Agency NASA corporately with their German colleagues from the German Center for Aviation and Aeronautics (Deutsches Zentrum für Luftund Raumfahrt (DLR)) among others to observe the formation of young stellar- and planetary systems; the project is also called "Flying Observatory". The infrared light of those objects, what the scientists are most after, can on ground only be received in a narrowed way, because particularly the water vapor in the earth?s atmosphere is impassable for this kind of radiation. At a height of about 13 kilometers the factor of the earth?s atmosphere is negligible and the way is clear for observing the infrared radiation of astronomical objects.
The completion and handling of the flying observatory "Sofia" (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared-Astronomy) is coordinated by the German side of the DSI, the German SOFIA Institute located at the University of Stuttgart. The DSI-Team is made up of engineers, scientists, logisticians and technicians taking care of the readiness for operations, the maintenance and the further development of the Telescope
The Documentation- and Maintenance software for the Telescope made of over 11,000 parts was developed by the German company ERPwerk in Oldenburg. The Software gives information on the Airworthiness of the Telescope and takes care of having all necessary spare parts for actual and upcoming maintenance tasks ready. Furthermore it manages documents like manuals, engineering drawings, maintenance procedures, material certificates, a.s.o for all parts and provides them to the users via an easy to handle search. The engineers are for example able to navigate visually through the Telescope via so called Hotspots (markers on the engineering drawings) and find the parts by a Mouse click. All the Data is stored and managed on a central Server located in the Internet. The Access to the Server is encrypted.
Warehouse Management, Procurement and Project Management
Beside the Maintenance and Documentation the Software also implements other Tasks for the corporate Project of NASA and DLR: Warehouse Management, Procurement, User rights Management and Project Management. The Software will implement a web-based Interface to the NASASystem, so the NASA Engineers are informed about actual Maintenance Tasks of the Telescope at regular intervals. Over this Interface project relevant data can be exchanged. One of the biggest challenges was the comfortable handling of large amounts of data over the Internet, so the whole Project-Team can globally work with the software, regardless of the location. Standard modules, thus pre-assembled blocks of Software, which are adapted to the needs of the project are used. In doing so costs are saved, development times are reduced and last but not least the complexity Navigation through the Telecope Structure (Assembly) via Hotspots is significantly lower.
The characteristical constellation of Orion in two exposures: as photography at the human visible field of light (left) and as Infrared-Exposure (right)