3.1. Experimental Process Overview

Experimental Process Overview

Below is a brief summary of key milestones in the NIF experiment process (see Figure 3-1) for proposing, scheduling, planning, and setting up an experiment in the context of communicating with NIF on a timeframe to support successful execution of the experiment.

Proposal Phase

A call for proposals is announced at least one time per year for each program. (See Section 3.1.1. for more on proposals.) The call includes facility time allocations in units of shot days, as well as a timeline that indicates salient dates such as proposal submission dates. All submitted proposals are reviewed for scientific merit and program impact by panels of internal and external experts. There is also a high-level proposal review for facility readiness and capability by NIF staff. The chair of the review committee summarizes the recommendations for each proposal in a report and sends the report to the NIF Director. The principal investigator receives a written notification from the NIF Director of the proposal evaluation and decision.

Scheduling Phase

All accepted proposals require a set of essential data that defines the experiment to be submitted through the NIF user portal (see Section 3.1.3. for more on the essential data). A program liaison is made available for those Principal Investigators (PIs) needing assistance. The experiment definitions allow for the programs to work in conjunction with the facility to schedule experiments consistent with constraints and capabilities. Batch scheduling of experiments occurs twice a year. (See Section 3.1.2. for more on scheduling.)

Planning Phase

Scheduled experiments are defined by the Shot Responsible Individual (RI) and planned such that they meet physics goals while not compromising on facility safety. This is the longest phase of the experiment process, as it starts no later than six months before and ends six weeks prior to the scheduled shot  date. The Shot RI collaborates with Target Fabrication on a target design that will allow the experiment goals to be achieved (see Section 7.2.). The Shot RI consults with the Diagnostics engineering team to communicate any special hardware needed in the Diagnostic Instrument Manipulator (DIM) and to negotiate participation of fixed diagnostics. The Shot RI specifies laser performance and pulse shaping, which may drive pre-experiment calibration activities or performance tests. At various points in the planning phase, expert group members review the details of the experiment definition to ensure that the experiment falls within the safety envelope. Iterations on experiment design are common during this phase.

Implementation Phase

The Shot RI finalizes all setup parameters in the Shot Setup tool. All experiments go through the Setup Review three weeks before the shot date to ensure readiness and begin preparation for execution. Once the setup is final, the experiment is approved by the NIF Operations Manager (NOM). The day of the shot, the Shot RI provides a pre-shot briefing to the Shot Director and NIF Operations staff. Operations personnel follow the appropriate procedures leading to execution of the shot. Within hours after the experiment, the Shot RI completes an online brief operational report and shot survey.