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Proceedings Paper

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope's operational mission experience
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Paper Abstract

Spitzer Space Telescope, the fourth and final of NASA's Great Observatories, and the cornerstone to NASA's Origins Program, launched on 25 August 2003 into an Earth-trailing solar orbit to acquire infrared observations from space. Spitzer has an 85cm diameter beryllium telescope, which operates near absolute zero utilizing a liquid helium cryostat for cooling the telescope. The helium cryostat though designed for a 2.5 year lifetime, through creative usage now has an expected lifetime of 5.5 years. Spitzer has completed its in-orbit checkout/science verification phases and the first two years of nominal operations becoming the first mission to execute astronomical observations from a solar orbit. Spitzer was designed to probe and explore the universe in the infrared utilizing three state of the art detector arrays providing imaging, photometry, and spectroscopy over the 3-160 micron wavelength range. Spitzer is achieving major advances in the study of astrophysical phenomena across the expanses of our universe. Many technology areas critical to future infrared missions have been successfully demonstrated by Spitzer. These demonstrated technologies include lightweight cryogenic optics, sensitive detector arrays, and a high performance thermal system, combining radiation both passive and active cryogenic cooling of the telescope in space following its warm launch. This paper provides an overview of the Spitzer mission, telescope, cryostat, instruments, spacecraft, its orbit, operations and project management approach and related lessons learned.

Paper Details

Date Published: 29 June 2006
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 6270, Observatory Operations: Strategies, Processes, and Systems, 627001 (29 June 2006); doi: 10.1117/12.670104
Show Author Affiliations
Robert K. Wilson, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
California Institute of Technology (United States)
Charles P. Scott, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
California Institute of Technology (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6270:
Observatory Operations: Strategies, Processes, and Systems
David R. Silva; Rodger E. Doxsey, Editor(s)

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