Institute of Space Systems

Airborne Astronomy and extraterrestrial Space Flight Missions

Information about research in Airborne Astronomy and extraterrestrial Space Flight Missions, directed by Prof. Alfred Krabbe.

Research in this Area

The Astronomical Telescope of the University of Stuttgart (ATUS) is used as a training platform and research instrument for aerospace engineering students. In addition, the telescope is used to test and evaluate hardware and software before they are integrated into SOFIA.

More about ATUS

The Field Imaging Far-Infrared Line-Spectrometer (FIFI-LS) is a first generation scientific instrument for SOFIA. FIFI-LS can record spectra for each pixel of its 5x5 field of view per detector simultaneously. The instrument is a collaboration between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and was developed and mainly integrated at the Max Planck Institute.

More about FIFI-LS

The Focal Plane Imager Plus (FPI+) is an instrument from the German Aerospace Center and is operated and maintained by the Deutsches SOFIA Institut.

More about FPI+ on the USRA Website

The "Design Study for the European Stratospheric Balloon Observatory" is a research infrastructure project designed to pave the way for an astronomical observatory based on stratospheric balloons. The project is supervised in cooperation with the Department of Satellite Technology.

More about ESBO-DS

The Deutsches SOFIA Institut

In November 2004, the Deutsches SOFIA Institut (DSI) was founded at the University of Stuttgart. It is a part of the Institute of Space Systems.

On behalf of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and under the leardship of Prof. Krabbe, the Deutsches SOFIA Institute coordinates the operation of the infrared observatory SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy). In addition, DSI is regarded as the German center for excellence in infrared astronomy. Within the framework of its scientific observations, DSI provides technically competent support for the astronomical user community in Germany during the use of the SOFIA observatory. In order to enable smooth telescope operation, about 30 DSI employees are constantly at the American operations center in California.


The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is a joint project of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Deutsches SOFIA Institut (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart coordinates the scientific operations on the German side. The American scientific operations are planned by the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). Flight tests and flight operations are led by the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) to the north of Los Angeles. The NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) to the south of San Francisco conducts the scientific research flights. To facilitate smooth telescope operations, the majority of DSI employees are continuously posted on site in California. 

Especially interesting objects for SOFIA's observations are galaxies, star forming regions, the interstellar medium, our solar system, planets and comets.

SOFIA in California
The SOFIA airplane in California


This image shows Alfred Krabbe
Prof. Dr. rer. nat.

Alfred Krabbe

Professor of Airborne Astronomy and Extraterrestrial Space Missions, Head of the Deutsches SOFIA Institut

This image shows Barbara Klett

Barbara Klett

DSI Assistant to Senior Management

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