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That's All Folks! Last LIGO-I Mirror Installed at Hanford

That's All Folks! Last LIGO-I Mirror Installed at Hanford

- Contributed by Fred Raab

End Mirror of the Hanford 4-km Interferometer. As the month of June drew to a close, the last mirror of the initial LIGO detector (a.k.a. LIGO-I) was installed at the Hanford Observatory. This was the mirror known as WA4K-ETMy, the end mirror (or "test mass") for the 4-km interferometer. The photo at left shows the mirror illuminated by a flashlight as it hangs in its chamber. (The camera angle shows the view from inside the vacuum chamber looking towards equipment on the outside.) This installation follows on the successful earthquake repairs of the Washington 2-km (WA2K) interferometer, damaged in the February 28, 2001 Nisqually Earthquake, as well as remedial work on suspensions, sensors and actuators in the LA4K interferometer in Livingston. The installation of the WA4K optics in the corner station had been done concurrently with earthquake repairs on the WA2K system and the WA2K-ETMx had been installed previously.

Although this was the last planned installation activity for LIGO-I, it would be a mistake to surmise that this equipment is "more of the same old stuff." Since we have run commissioning of components in parallel with completion of further installations, the components have been steadily improved as we learned from studying the performance of previously installed hardware. The WA4K uses the latest design of shadow sensors, perfected after it was discovered that the earlier design suffered from susceptibility to scattered light. The WA4K interferometer is also the first LIGO interferometer to use a newly-developed, digital suspension controller. The new controllers feature digital tuning throughout the modules, replacing component-level analog filters. This allows software tuning of the controller's features rather than a "cut and solder" approach to reshaping the electrical characteristics of the controller. Scientist Rick Savage in the Vacuum Chambers.

We did not quite have the installation finished by the end of June. There were still some tasks associated with alignment of the mirror, and an extensive list of checkout procedures remained before we could put the doors on the end chamber and begin pumpdown. The photo at right shows scientist Rick Savage using a glove-encapsulated radio to guide team members in threading an alignment beam through the vacuum chambers. These remaining tasks were completed and the pumpdown was initiated shortly after July 4. Typically, we have a wait of several weeks between initiation of pumping the chambers in a building and opening the large gate valves that connect the buildings to the beam tube. This hiatus allows time for water vapor, introduced into the chamber with the new equipment, to dissipate enough so that the cold traps guarding the beam tubes can reduce moisture leakage into the tubes to the required level. Nonetheless, there were many commissioning tasks running on WA4K equipment in the corner station while we were completing work in the end station.