SOFIA will end operations

NASA and its partners at the German Space Agency at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) will conclude the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) mission, after a successful eight years of science.
SOFIA will end operations no later than Sept. 30, 2022, at the conclusion of its current mission extension.

SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP airplane, Registered N747NA (c/n: 21441 ) modified to carry a reflecting telescope.
SOFIA completed its five-year prime mission in 2019 and currently is completing a three-year mission extension.

As part of its review of the current state of astronomical research, the National Academies’ Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 evaluated SOFIA. The report, which provides peer-reviewed recommendations to NASA for the future of U.S. astrophysics, concluded SOFIA’s science productivity does not justify its operating costs. The report also found SOFIA’s capabilities do not significantly overlap with the science priorities the Decadal Survey has identified for the next decade and beyond.

The Decadal Survey therefore recommended NASA end the SOFIA mission after its current mission extension. NASA and DLR have accepted this recommendation. SOFIA will finish out its scheduled operations for the 2022 fiscal year, followed by an orderly shutdown.

Hundreds of individuals in the United States and Germany have contributed to the SOFIA mission over its lifetime. It began development in 1996, saw first light in 2010, and achieved full operational capability in 2014. In the eight years since, SOFIA’s observations of the Moon, planets, stars, star-forming regions, and nearby galaxies included the discovery of water on the sunlit surface of the Moon in 2020.

Moving forward, SOFIA’s data will be available in NASA’s public archives for astronomers worldwide to use. NASA will continue to advance the future of scientific discovery in infrared astrophysics, starting with the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope, as well as further opportunities recommended by the Decadal Survey.


Related Images:

Google Advertising

Tommy Mogren
Tommy Mogren
Passion 4 Aviation and the 747SP in particular. Photographer and video producer. YouTube | Viking Wings

Related Articles


  1. Considering NASA own 2 747SP and broke up 2 others for parts for SOFIA, it will be interesting to see what happens to the plane. The costs to remove the telescope and return the plane to original specifications would be prohibitively expensive. More than likely she will end up in a museum like NASA’s other 747s have. The big question is what happens to 747A #21992, some parts have already been removed from it. Hopefully she wont be sold for scrap and broken up.

  2. I’ve been told by a member of the pilot training crew for the mission that the aircraft will be displayed at the Planes of Fame Air Museum. Not certain if it will end up in Chino, CA or Valle AZ. I think they’re leaning toward CA. This is NOT official yet, so take what this random dude on the internet is saying with a grain of salt.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected


Latest News