Indian engineers develop software for world’s largest telescope (TMT)

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), slated to be the world’s largest ground-based telescope operating at optical and infrared wavelengths, is an international Big Science project with participation from institutions in the US, Canada, China, Japan and India. About 70 percent of Indian contribution will be in the form of both hardware and software for the telescope. Indian entities are engaged in developing observatory software as well as a telescope control system.

Thirty Meter Telescope, La Palma (Spain)
The Thirty Meter Telescope, La Palma (Spain)

This week, a key milestone of software development for TMT was reached with pre-shipment review of the Telescope Common Software (CSW), which has been under development for the past two years. This means the software is consistent with original requirements and design and now is ready for its future integration within TMT’s software infrastructure.

The software has been developed by ThoughtWorks Technologies based in Pune. This team is also developing another software component for the telescope – Executive Software product.

“It is the first TMT software component to be completed and ready for shipment. This achievement successfully shows that working with our India-partner and India-based vendor development team, we can develop software remotely following the formal preliminary and final design reviews, while under the management of the project office,” said Kim Gillies, TMT Lead Software Architect.

The CSW package will be the software communication backbone with necessary elements for observatory-wide configuration, command, control, and status reporting. It will be layered on top of the IT infrastructure network provided by the future communications and information sub-system. The package includes a number of services, each providing a single required function needed for integrating the subsystems. Its design made use of open-source resources and provided astronomy-oriented interfaces. This approach will speed up the development process.

“We have built an effective tri-partite collaboration between the main Project Office in Pasadena, the India TMT Coordination Center (ITCC) in Bangalore, and the ThoughtWorks Company,” said Francisco Delgado, TMT Observatory Software Project Manager, in a press statement. “All these teams have cooperated very effectively. Passing the pre-shipment review is a very powerful demonstration that the software team will be capable of delivering the other software components in the future.”

Work on another set of software – the Telescope Control System (TCS) – has entered the final design phase following a recent final design review. It will provide and maintain high-quality stable images to the science instruments located at the telescope’s Nasmyth focal planes.

Though Hawaii remains the favoured site for setting up TMT, the project has been delayed due to opposition from a section of native Hawaiians. Following this, the TMT International Observatory Board has decided to develop a secondary Northern Hemisphere site on which to construct the observatory. This is at La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain.

Dinesh Sharma is the Managing Editor of India Science Wire.

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