The LIGO-India Project is moving forward. LIGO Director David Reitze recently emailed the LIGO Scientific Collaboration with these news:
I’m writing to you to give you an update on the LIGO-India Project. You’ll recall that the idea for LIGO-India is: LIGO Laboratory will supply the designs, hardware and software for one of the Advanced LIGO interferometers currently slated for installation in Hanford. India will provide the observatory facilities including the vacuum system. India will supply the personnel to install and commission the interferometer in India, while LIGO Laboratory will provide training and technical support to the Indian team. The future LIGO-India site will be operated together with our two U.S. sites as a single GW LIGO Global Network to collect and analyze data. Further, we and our Indian partners will continue to perform research and development of new experimental techniques, and plan for future developments and upgrades.
The LIGO Lab established an internal deadline of March 31, 2012 for making our final decision on whether or not to recommend to the NSF to proceed to minimize the impact the Advanced LIGO schedule. Over the past 9 months, we have been conducting a thorough evaluation of LIGO-India. We have worked closely with our Indian colleagues to plan LIGO-India. Over the past 9 months, various senior members of the Lab have made 5 ‘scouting trips’ to India to visit laboratories and institutes and hold technical discussions with Indian scientists and engineers. We’ve met with Indian funding agency representatives to assess LIGO-India’s chances of being funded as well as held discussions with Lab Directors on how the LIGO-India Project would be organized. We have also engaged the NSF in discussions to determine how to proceed in the eventuality that we wished to recommend going forward. The NSF has held two preliminary peer reviews of our concept, both of which have endorsed the proposal to site one of our Hanford instruments in India.
To enable a clear decision process, the Lab formulated a set of key criteria that would have to be met by March 31 in order for us to make a strong positive recommendation to proceed. These criteria include a guarantee of funding, identification of the Indian institutes that will lead the Project (the counterparts to Caltech and MIT), identification of candidates for the LIGO-India Director, identification and preliminary vetting of at least two viable sites for LIGO-India, and agreement on both the US and Indian sides on the terms of an MOU that will define the responsibilities and obligations on each side. Only if all criteria were met would we recommend going forward.
Jay Marx, Fred Raab, David Shoemaker, Stan Whitcomb and I visited India in late February and early March to evaluate whether the decision criteria have been met. Our assessment is that all criteria will either have been met or are essentially guaranteed of being met. During 2012 - 2016, funding will be provided for site acquisition, observatory and vacuum system construction, with funding for commissioning and operations coming in 2017-2026. Included in this are funds for training Indian scientists engineers at LIGO institutions. Three Indian Institutes […] will lead the LIGO-India project on the Indian side. Each has strengths in key areas necessary for LIGO-India to succeed. A LIGO-India Director candidate has been identified. Eight locations have been potentially identified as possible LIGO-India sites. Finally, an MOU between the US and Indian sides has been drafted and agreed to by both sides. Taken together, these provide us with confidence that LIGO-India will succeed.
The LIGO Lab Executive Committee very recently met to consider LIGO-India, and there is a broad, strong consensus to move forward. We’ve also met with the LIGO Laboratory Oversight Committee, and they ‘unanimously and enthusiastically endorse’ the LIGO-India Project. Before LIGO-India becomes official, NSF will have to review our recommendation and approve it. NSF will hold a final review of LIGO-India in mid-April and we expect to hear their decision in early May. In addition, the Advanced LIGO Project held a Technical Review Board to determine which Hanford instrument we would send to India if we made the decision to move forward. Their recommendation was to send the H2 components to India, implemented as a straight interferometer to mimic the US aLIGO instruments.
While LIGO-India represents a new opportunity, it also brings a new commitment to the LIGO Lab. I want to emphasize that Advanced LIGO in the U.S. will remain the number one priority of the LIGO Laboratory.
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