The Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA's Great Observatory for infrared astronomy, was launched 2003 August 25 and is returning excellent scientific data from its Earth-trailing solar orbit. Spitzer combines the intrinsic sensitivity achievable with a cryogenic telescope in space with the great imaging and spectroscopic power of modern detector arrays to provide the user community with huge gains in capability for exploration of the cosmos in the infrared. The observatory systems are largely performing as expected, and the projected cryogenic lifetime is in excess of 5 years. This paper summarizes the on-orbit scientific, technical, and operational performance of Spitzer. Subsequent papers in this special issue describe the Spitzer instruments in detail and highlight many of the exciting scientific results obtained during the first 6 months of the Spitzer mission.
- Space vehicles: Instruments