From 1979-1981 I worked on the Air Defence Variant (ADV) of the the Multi-Role Tornado aircraft in the Flight Test Department of British Aerospace at Warton in Lancashire. Obviously, since it was pretty secret, I can't write much about what I did but I was involved in planning test flights, monitoring the flights by telemetry and then analysing the results. I mostly worked in the areas of aerodynamics and avionics.

A Tornado ADV, known as the Tornado F2 and F3 in the RAF, at RAF Leuchars in Scotland in 1992. Photo John Davies.

ADV in flight with wings fully swept back. Photo. John Davies.


From late 1981-1983 I worked with other scientists at the ground control station for the Infrared Astronomical Satellite IRAS. Simon Green and I scanned the output from IRAS every day looking for objects which were moving. While doing this we discovered 6 comets (all named IRAS), a few asteroids and a huge dust trail associated with comet P/Tempel-2.

An artist's impression of IRAS in orbit. The spacecraft is passing over Britain where the ground station was located. Photo:NASA.


From 1984-1986 I worked at the University of Birmingham helping to build a soft X-ray telescope which was part of the scientific payload of the international ROSAT mission. I was involved in tests of the instrument's thermal properties and on how it would behave during launch. Some of the testing was done in big vacuum chambers in England and Germany. ROSAT was launched after I left Birmigham and carried out a very succesful mission which is described in my book on "Astronomy from Space".


I was responsible for testing the optics of the infrared camera ISOCAM which was carried on the European Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) mission. ISO was launched on 17 November 1995. ISO, and some of its discoveries are described in my book on "Astronomy from Space".

The ISO spacecraft in a test chamber before launch. Photo:ESA

I also worked with some other astronomers on what was then a radical idea to cool space telescopes without liquid cryogens. Although I don't claim much of the credit, this has now been adopted in various forms by the Spitzer Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. Here are some details.

John Keith Davies
Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, EH9 3HJ
tel: (44) 0131 668 8348 / fax: (44) 0131 662 1668/

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