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LIGO Construction is Done!

LIGO Construction is Done!

- Contributed by Phil Lindquist

Stretch a dollar. The LIGO Construction Project is officially concluded! We have completed all of the work defined in the original National Science Foundation (NSF) Cooperative Agreement for the Construction, Related Research and Development, and Initial Operations, which included installation and commissioning through 2001.

The last dollars were spent polishing up the handles on the big front doors, metaphorically speaking. Specifically, the last monies were used to finalize the facilities at Hanford and Livingston, and to procure the computing systems for the LIGO Data Analysis Systems. These procurements were delayed as long as possible to get the most bang for the buck, since computing hardware and software tends to get more powerful and less expensive with time. But the cooperative agreement was formally over, so all materials purchased under the agreement had to be delivered June 30, 2003.

This isn't to say of that all of the actual work on initial LIGO is finished. Far from it! We continue to tweak, measure, and re-tweak the detectors to achieve the design sensitivity. Currently we are about a factor of ten from our goal. However, we have already achieved mounting orders of magnitude improvement over the past two years, and are confident that we continue to close in on our objectives.

Every construction project, especially one with facilities and equipment as complex as LIGO, entails a number of uncertainties, and budgets established at the beginning must reflect the risks. The trick for Project Management is to manage the budgets, the schedule, and the risks so as to maximize the benefit for the customer--in LIGO's case, the NSF and both the gravitational-wave physics and astronomy communities. And this has to be done while remaining within the target costs and schedules. Our funding target was $292.1 million. Finance is still paying the final bills and counting the pennies, but as of the end of June we were within $20,000 (less than 0.01 percent) of that target, an achievement we take a bit of pride in.