May 17, 2006 - Space Telescope Leaves SLAC for Washington D.C. - Press Release
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Date Issued: May 17, 2006
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Menlo Park, CAThe pioneering space telescope recently assembled at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) has taken a continent-sized step in its journey toward launch. The Large Area Telescope (LAT) arrived safely on Sunday, May 14, at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C., after a 3,000-mile trip from Menlo Park, California, in a special atmospherically-controlled truck.
LAT is the primary instrument for the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) mission to detect gamma rays, the most energetic particles of light in the universe. Physicists and astronomers expect that this unprecedented look at the gamma-ray sky will reveal vital information about the nature of dark matter, the evolution of stars, and the accelerating powers of supermassive black holes.
GLAST is an international collaboration led by NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE). SLAC, a DOE laboratory operated by Stanford University, manages the development of LAT. GLAST is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center in the fall of 2007, ending up in orbit 330 miles above the Earth.
"GLAST will probe extreme environments and cataclysmic events in the Universe with hope of unraveling some of nature's deepest mysteries," said LAT Principal Investigator Professor Peter Michelson, a Stanford University physics professor with an appointment at SLAC. "The gamma ray sky is a unique window on our Universe, and GLAST will see it like never before."
LAT collaborators from around the world designed, built and tested subsystems for the instrument. "Congratulations to the SLAC scientists, engineers and collaborators who have spent years meticulously planning, assembling and testing LAT," said Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, Director of the DOE's Office of Science. "It was a technical and managerial challenge for SLAC, but in the end the team achieved a great success."
The 1.8-meter cube offers an enormous leap in capabilities to examine the invisible gamma-ray universe. It will be at least 30 times more sensitive than previous detectors and have a far greater field of view. The LAT detectors are essentially particle physics detectors adapted for space conditions.
"Building the LAT was a fabulous team effort," said Persis Drell, director of Particle and Particle Astrophysics at SLAC. "It was a pleasure to work with such a dedicated team on this challenging endeavor. We at SLAC are thrilled to see the LAT taking its next step towards launch."
The LAT left its clean room at SLAC on May 11 and crews from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center transported the three-ton instrument across the country. Goddard manages the GLAST mission for NASA.
At NRL, the LAT will undergo three months of grueling "shake and bake" testing to ensure the entire instrument will survive the extreme temperatures, noises and vibrations it will endure during launch and in space. Electromagnetic interference tests will double-check that LAT operations do not interfere with the spacecraft's onboard computers.
"We're confident we're going to pass these tests," said LAT Project Manager Lowell Klaisner of SLAC. "Each subassembly has been put through the same set of tests at SLAC at a wider range than they will see at the NRL."
SLAC researchers will also go to Washington, D.C., to run the tests with NRL staff. After completing the environmental tests, the LAT will be shipped to Arizona, where engineers at General Dynamics C4 Systems will put LAT and the second GLAST instrument on a spacecraft with solar wings, altitude control and communications.
SLAC will keep also close tabs on the LAT once it achieves orbit. A SLAC operations center will play a key role in monitoring the health and safety of the instrument, and processing and analyzing the data from LAT together with the international team of scientists. GLAST data will be released to the broader science community as well.
NOTE TO EDITORS: The GLAST Large Area Telescope was built with significant contributions from NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and foreign collaborating institutions. The DOE’s Stanford Linear Accelerator Center at Stanford University manages the development of LAT, in collaboration with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of California-Santa Cruz, Stanford's W.W. Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory, the University of Washington, Ohio State University, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Italy's Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, France's Institut National de Physique Nucléaire et de Physique des Particules and Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, and institutions in Japan and Sweden. For a complete list of collaborators see http://glast.stanford.edu.
by Heather Rock Woods