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SLAC Readies for Large Area Telescope Operations

When the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) rockets into orbit later this year, a group of people will be monitoring and commanding the Large Area Telescope (LAT) instrument onboard GLAST from the newly built LAT Operations Facility in SLAC's Building 84.

Last Tuesday, more than a dozen members of the LAT Instrument Science Operations Center (ISOC) gathered in the new facility for their first rehearsal.

The ISOC and the broader LAT Collaboration will use the facility to monitor the health and safety of the LAT and to communicate LAT commands to the GLAST Mission Operation Center at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

"We're starting to get familiar with the LAT monitoring displays and the procedures we will follow for participating in GLAST operations," said ISOC manager Rob Cameron.

GLAST will orbit the Earth about 15 times per day at an altitude of 565 kilometers, searching for sources of highly energetic gamma rays that emanate from matter near black holes, pulsars and other exotic objects.

The ISOC groups will prepare commands that direct the instrument's observations for each orbit. The Flight Operations group will monitor the operation of the LAT in real time, several times per day during communications contacts between GLAST and the ground. The raw event data the LAT collects will be transmitted to the ground in each communications contact, and then delivered to SLAC for processing, overseen by the ISOC's Science Operations and Science Analysis Systems groups.

The rehearsal on Tuesday used playback of archived data from previous LAT testing. The instrument has already been operating in ground testing for several months, detecting particles from cosmic ray showers that reach the Earth's surface. In upcoming "End-to-End" tests before launch, the LAT ISOC will coordinate with the other GLAST operations elements at NASA and elsewhere to control the still-Earth-bound GLAST observatory in flight-like operations rehearsals.

—Heather Rock Woods, January 20, 2007

Above image: Display screens in the new ISOC facility. (Image courtesy of Diana Rogers.)