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GLAST Collaborators Rehearse Launch Activities

(Photo - ISOC)The operations center for the Large Area Telescope (LAT) at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) will be ready when the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) is launched into orbit next spring. The LAT is the principal instrument on GLAST, which will search for sources of highly energetic gamma rays that emanate from matter near black holes, pulsars and other exotic objects.

Last week, the researchers and engineers who will operate the LAT and analyze its data rehearsed the activities they will undertake to activate and checkout the instrument during its first 60 days of orbit.

"This was a great exercise to train shift coordinators, get used to the constraints of catching and fixing problems from a detector in space, practice our activities on simulated data, and get ready for launch," said Eduardo do Couto e Silva, who coordinated the rehearsal.

The group simulated 15 complete orbits, each with different potential problems and features. "It is the first time we've really had a semi-realistic end-to-end test of the processing and analysis of the LAT data," said Seth Digel, who works on GLAST scientific operations. "It went extremely well, better than we could have hoped."

Seventy-eight members of the LAT collaboration—from France, Italy, Japan, Sweden, SLAC and other parts of the United States—came to the lab or participated from their home institutions to rehearse operating the LAT in shifts, processing and analyzing the data, coordinating work and communications, and issuing simulated notifications of transient gamma-ray sources for follow-up study.

"People were really enthusiastic about this," said Anders Borgland, who coordinated definitions of the LAT configurations, generation of the Monte Carlo simulations as "flight-like" data, and processing and monitoring of the results for each of the 15 orbits. "Even though it was simulated data, people literally stayed up all night to do analyses."

"There are a lot of happy people today," he continued, just after the rehearsal ended on Friday afternoon. "Tired, but very happy."

There will be two additional rehearsals of post-launch activities prior to next year's launch.

Heather Rock Woods, SLAC Today, October 16, 2007

Above photo: Some of the participants in last week's GLAST Large Area Telescope rehearsal.