1. Introduction

The Unified SOFIA Proposal and Observation Tool (USPOT) is a client-server multi-platform software designed to be the only tool needed by proposers to plan SOFIA observations, submit observing proposals, and modify approved observing programs. Astronomical Observing Templates (AOTs) provide common combinations of configurations and modes for specific instruments as selectable options within USPOT—the full details on instrument capabilities are available within the Observer's Handbook. Be sure you are using the version of the Observer's Handbook that corresponds to your observing cycle. Astronomical Observation Requests (AORs) are completed by filling out the template with the desired observing parameters. To aid in planning, USPOT incorporates features that overlay AORs on the estimated infrared background around a target to visualize how SOFIA will execute observations. Proposals may then be submitted via USPOT to the SOFIA Science Center, where they are stored and managed by the SOFIA Data Cycle System (DCS).

The SOFIA proposal process consists of two steps: Phase I and Phase II. Phase I requires the preparation and submission of a science justification, a feasibility analysis for the proposed program, and a high level description of the proposed targets and observations. The proposal consists of formatted information filled in via the form fields on USPOT (such as proposer information, scientific category, instrument, target, and exposure information) and one file (two files starting in Cycle 9) containing the scientific justification and other information to be uploaded in PDF format. Note that to submit a proposal, one needs to have a registered DCS account, which can be created here.

The Phase I proposals will be peer reviewed, and based on the recommendations of the panel, proposals will be selected by the Science Mission Operations (SMO) Director. Proposals that are awarded observing time based on the evaluation process will subsequently be required to submit Phase II observation specifications following guidelines provided by the SMO Director. These submissions will provide the SMO staff with the detailed definition of each observation to be executed for the program. In addition, proposers affiliated with U.S. institutions will be invited to submit a budget, based on funding guidelines provided by the SMO Director.

The USPOT software is available for download from the SOFIA DCS website.

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