NASA GSFC Solicitation: Notice of NASA Plans to Seek Additional Partners To Conduct Astronomical Observations Aboard SOFIA

Status Report From: Goddard Space Flight Center
Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2007

Synopsis - Nov 01, 2007

General Information

Solicitation Number: NNH08SMD000R
Posted Date: Nov 01, 2007
FedBizOpps Posted Date: Nov 01, 2007
Original Response Date: N/A
Current Response Date: N/A
Classification Code: A -- Research and Development
NAICS Code: 541712 - Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology)

Contracting Office Address

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Headquarters Acquisition Branch, Code 210.H, Greenbelt, MD 20771


Science Mission Request For Information/Sources Sought: Notice of NASA's Plans to Seek Additional Partners to Conduct Astronomical Observations Aboard the Stratosphere Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Program

Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)

Response date: Expression of interest 30 days from RFI issue date

Table of Contents

4.1 How to Respond
4.2 General Information
4.2.1 Proprietary and Confidential Information
4.2.2 Compliance with U.S. Laws, Regulations, and Policies
4.2.3 Use of Government Resources
4.2.4 Period of Performance
4.2.5 RFI Issuance

1. Background

The NASA Science Mission Directorate is providing an opportunity for domestic and international universities, organizations, and research foundations to participate as a partner in SOFIA operations. This Request For Information (RFI) is to solicit interest in an additional partner to join the program and conduct astronomical observations in the stratosphere using the largest airborne observatory in the world. The aircraft will have an initial operational capability (IOC) starting in 2009 with the Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2014. During IOC, the observatory will have limited observation opportunities. Once fully operational, the aircraft will have the capability for approximately 1000 observation hours per year over 20 years.

SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy) carries a gyro-stabilized 2.5 meter telescope into the dry stratosphere, to permit observations of radiation of celestial objects at wavelengths from the visual and into the far-infrared and sub-millimeter. Development of SOFIA was directly inspired by the success of the Gerard Kuiper Airborne Observatory, a NASA aircraft that carried a gyro-stabilized 0.9-meter telescope. The SOFIA aircraft is a Boeing 747-SP originally configured as a commercial passenger aircraft for Pan American Airlines. The aircraft was completely overhauled and modified to accommodate the Observatory sub-systems including: a gyro-stabilized 2.5-meter telescope; an on board mission control area; a telescope cavity with cavity door; and a cavity environment system.

2. Description

Under this RFI, NASA solicits interest primarily from domestic and international universities, organizations, and research foundations to participate as a partner in SOFIA operations. For domestic partners, NASA intends to use its authority under the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, as amended ("Space Act"), to enter into a reimbursable agreement where each party funds their own participation as a percentage of observation time. International partnerships may be established on a no-exchange-of-funds basis or through a reimbursable agreement.

Currently NASA is funding 80% of the program and the German space agency, DLR, is funding 20%. The goal is to reduce NASA's share of the program from 80% and allow a partner the prospect to conduct observations of its choosing within the technical constraints of the SOFIA observatory. NASA is focused on creating a substantial long-term commitment from the respective partner with a partnership agreement of between 3 and 10 years. The goal of this partnership is to have a new partner obtain 20% of NASA's share of the observatory time which will include over 150 observation hours per year, once fully operational. The annual cost for a partner supporting the program at this level is approximately $15M per year.

The new partner will have access to flight and science operations and infrastructure which includes:

  • * Ability to conduct observations of its choosing within the technical constraints of the SOFIA in many locations around the world. Primary locations are NASA, Dryden in Southern California (its home base) and Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • * Fully operational and maintained aircraft and telescope assembly with aircrew and support staff.
  • * Ability to fly scientists on the aircraft for the observations.
  • * Ability to fly educators and students on the aircrafts classroom, once fully operational.
  • * Aircraft access to perform instrument checkout on the ground prior to flights.
  • * Access and use of SOFIA ground based labs at NASA Dryden and NASA Ames.
  • * Access and use of SOFIA data archiving and storage infrastructure.
  • * Ability to use existing NASA funded instruments or partner can design and build instruments.

3. Process

NASA Headquarters oversees the SOFIA program that is managed by the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, with the Science project led out of the NASA Ames Research Center and the Airborne Platform project led out of NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. NASA Headquarters is providing the opportunity for partners to join the program and lead a percentage of SOFIA's observation time.

4. Information for Respondents

4.1 How to Respond

An informal expression of interest within 30 days of issuance of this RFI is expected electronically to the point-of-contact listed below. All responses shall include the university, organization, or foundation, point-of-contact, address, and phone number. All responses shall include an e-mail address for the point-of-contact in order to expedite communications. Following the expression of interest, the interested parties will be contacted to set up a working meeting to discuss their participation in more detail. All questions asked prior to submitting the expression of interest shall get a response. Formal selection of an additional partner is anticipated to be in the mid 2008 time frame.

Questions regarding this RFI should also be addressed to the Point-of-Contact listed below: Name: Ray Taylor Title: Program Executive, SOFIA program Phone: 202-358-0766 Email:

4.2 General Information

4.2.1 Proprietary and Confidential Information Respondents are NOT to provide any information that is considered proprietary, trade secrets, or privileged or confidential.

4.2.2 Compliance with U.S. Laws, Regulations, and Policies Proposals must comply with all applicable U.S. laws, regulations and policies.

4.2.3 Use of Government Resources In support of this RFI, the Government will consider requests from respondents for Government furnished resources and technologies. Requests for use of Government equipment, facilities or services should be provided to the Point-of-Contact for this RFI.

4.2.4 Period of Performance The Government anticipates that the proposed partnership under Space Act Agreements would have an initial period of performance of between three and ten years, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties.

4.2.5 RFI Issuance NASA will not issue paper copies of this RFI. NASA reserves the right to select for negotiations all, some, or none of the proposed collaborative partnerships in response to this RFI.

Point of Contact

Name: Ray Taylor
Title: Program Executive, SOFIA Program
Phone: 202-358-0766
Fax: 202-358-2697

// end //

More status reports and news releases or top stories.

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.