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Instrument Remote Control


Goddard Space Flight Center's Instrument Remote Control (IRC) project is an ongoing effort led by the Advanced Architectures and Automations Branch (Code 588). IRC supports NASA's mission by defining an adaptive framework that provides robust interactive and distributed control and monitoring of remote instruments. IRC will eventually enable trusted astronomers from around the world to easily access infrared instruments (e.g., telescopes, cameras, and spectrometers) located in remote, inhospitable environments, such as the South Pole, a high mountaintop, or an airborne observatory. The IRC framework will ultimately enable astronomers, instrument designers, hardware engineers, and other scientists to define onboard instruments, to control the instruments remotely, and to monitor vital instrument telemetry over an intranet or, for trusted users, possibly the Internet.

IRC technology will be making its debut as an operational solution on an actual twenty-year NASA mission. The initial effort is targeted for the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) project, a Boeing 747-SP aircraft modified to accommodate a 2.5 meter reflecting telescope. In 2001, SOFIA will be the largest airborne telescope in the world. One of the first light instruments named HAWC (High Resolution Airborne Wideband Camera), is the first focus of our technology.


  • Enabling access of infrared astronomical instruments located in remote, inhospitable environments.
  • Configurable software architecture supporting instrument remote control.
  • Easy to develop, modify, maintain, extend.
  • Distributed - assign processes to different computers, regardless of operating system.


  • Instrument Remote Control (IRC) began as a small prototyping effort for CARA at the South Pole in 1997.
  • Developed a distributed architecture and Graphical User Inteface to remotely control heaters attached to a telescope located at the South Pole.
  • Early 1998: Idea to describe instrument control via XML (Extensible Markup Language).
  • Mid 1998: Began SOFIA HAWC effort.
  • Feb. 1999: Completed HAWC prototype.
  • Feb. 1999: Began ESA SPIRE effort.

Responsible NASA Official:
Julie Breed (
        Advanced Architectures and Automation Branch (Code 588)

Troy Ames (
        Advanced Architectures and Automation Branch (Code 588)
Lynne Case (