Instrument Development Schedule

The schedule for developing instrumentation ideas is presented below. There are four sequential steps that are identified.

  1. White Paper – project ideas are presented to kick off discussion.
  2. Feasibility design study – If the SSC approves the white paper, PIs will be provided funds and to develop a feasibility design.
  3. System Design – If the SSC approves moving forward, the PI will be provided more funds to develop a system design for the instrument.
  4. Proposal Preparation – If the System Design is approved, the observatory will provide funds and effort to mature a proposal.

The schedule and process is flexible. As an example, Instruments that have completed a conceptual design prior to approaching the SSC for approval, may a present their conceptual design seeking funding and approval to move into the system design phase. Small upgrade projects may request moving to a proposal phase and skip the concept and system design phase because the scope of the project does not merit that level of planning.

PIs may propose what funding track to pursue, but the SSC will approve the track for the project before moving forward and may suggest a different track than what the PI proposed. At any step, the SSC has the authority to say a project should not proceed. Previous SSC approval is not a green light to seek funding. Requests to seek funding must be approved by the SSC, and it is anticipated that this request will come when entering the proposal development cycle.

Instrumentation Development Life Cycle

The instrumentation life cycle is broadly categorized by Design Formulation and Construction with the progressive steps under these categories that have reviews and key decision points before moving to the next stage of the project. Figure 2 identifies the phases in the instrumentation life cycle. Projects advance to the next phase on if recommended by the SSC and endorsed by the Board and is not guaranteed. Key decision points often follow a review that is designed to provide periodic assessments of technical and programmatic health. Reviews serve to assure stakeholders that the project is progressing and completing the work required. Written reports submitted by the PI to the SSC and major project review reports provided by independent review teams are inputs into decision points for recommending a project moves forward.

Design Formulation starts with the initial concept and brings it to a full Preliminary Design. Under the Design Formulation, there are four phases that include:

  • Concept phase to determine feasibility and an initial science case;
  • Phase A system design phase during which designs for the instrument are matured on the most important aspects of the instrument as well as maturing the budget and schedule;
  • Proposal Development phase for soliciting funding from private and public granting agencies;
  • Preliminary design when all technical subsystems are designed and matured while programmatic processed are introduced and refined relative to the proposal phase.

During these phases, no major purchases are made. At the end of each one of these phases, the SSC recommends to the Board whether the project should continue. Preliminary Design usually does not formally begin until major project funding is secured. The start of the Preliminary Design phase is considered the formal project start date.  

Funding internal to WMKO is available for the early phases of development through Proposal Development. Instrument development teams may seek other sources of funding for these early phases. PIs are encouraged to present to and gain endorsement from the SSC even if external funds are used.

Construction begins when the project passes a Preliminary Design Review and the SSC and Board endorses the project to continue through a full build. Construction has two primary phases

  • Implementation phase is when the instrument detailed designs are finished and the build of the instrument is completed for all subsystems. Before delivery to the summit a review is held;
  • Commissioning includes integration of the instrument at the observatory and night time engineering activities to commissioning the instrument for routine operations. The project completes with a hand over to operations at the end of this phase.

Project Sizes

Projects are broadly categorized as large, medium, and small based primarily on project cost.

  • Large 6-30M
  • Medium 1.5-6M
  • Small < 1.5 M

The scale of the project sets the level of rigor and formality for the project life cycle of development and is agreed to at the start of the project defined when significant funding is provided to kick off the preliminary design phase.  Minor upgrades are likely small and we use the example. Major instrument overhauls and instruments with a specific science niches may be considered medium depending on technical complexity. Facility class instruments are often larger in scope and cost. These roughly coincide with NSF funding boundaries for programs like the ATI, MRI, MSIP, and MsRI that PIs will likely submit proposal to. Examples of projects in the Small, Medium, and Large categories are the LRIS red detector upgrade 2020 that replaced the detector and controller electronics, the HISPEC instrument or the NIRSPEC upgrade which replaced the two detectors, electronics, and all the IR guider opto-mechanical model, and the Keck Planet Finder instrument. There is flexibility in the review system as for example a the KCRM $8M upgrade although large in costs obtained full funding before preliminary design.

Life Cycle Reviews General information

Project reviews provide the development team an opportunity to demonstrate that it has completed the work of the previous phase and provides institutional leadership with an independent assessment on the projects technical and programmatic health. In general, the review serve to evaluate whether the

  • Science goals, science impact, and alignment with the WMKO strategic plan,
  • Technical assessment and approach: flow down of science requirements, instrument architecture and design, operational concepts and modes, and data handling.
  • Project management approach, partnerships, organization, staffing resources and institutional resources.
  • Cost, Schedule, and Budget with what are the possible control plans like descopes or upscopes, as well as contingency. Includes funding plan and profile.
  • Risk management plan, approaches, assessments, and actions and resources to mitigate.

At different times in the project lifecycle, emphasis on these five major themes will vary. Influencing the emphasis will be variables such as current in-hand funding, what phase the project is in, risks involved, and project size.

  • Emphasize with the teams what is most important. PIs and project managers should know this is what the SSC and Board are thinking.
    • In the early phases of project development Scientific and technical scope is most important as the project aligns with strategic needs.
    • As the project moves forward with a proposal Budget and Scope are balanced.
    • Once full project funds are secured, Budget and project schedule costs have a greater emphasis than Science Scope and schedule deliver milestones.