New schedule for the Feasibility Study RfP

Having reviewed our current project priorities and resource needs, Gemini is now committed to starting the procurement process for the Gen 4 #3 instrument in the second quarter of 2014.  The formal release of the Request for Proposals for instrument feasibility studies should follow within 4 months of this new start date.  The project team and other details remain as described in the previous announcement.

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Gemini’s next new instrument

The third generation of Gemini instruments, GeMS/GSAOI, F2, and GPI, is in various stages of testing, commissioning and early science use, and the procurement process for the fourth generation, the Gemini High-resolution Optical Spectrograph (GHOS) and GRACES is underway. Against this background the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC), which is advisory to the Board of Directors (GBoD), has recommended that Gemini start working on the next, post-GHOS instrument. STAC resolution 3.12 states:

“The STAC recommends Gemini prepare a Request for Proposals (RfP) to be
reviewed at its April 2013 meeting that can then be taken to the Board in May 2013.
This RFP would be directed at instrument building groups to propose for funded
design studies for instruments that would conform to the following principles:

  • The instrument should be a workhorse instrument, meaning that it has broad
    scientific appeal and enables a wide range of science cases.
  • The proposals should be science driven and include science cases. Science cases
    that provide synergies with new capabilities coming online (e.g. LSST, JWST,
    ALMA, etc) are highly desirable, especially including capabilities needed to follow
    up survey discoveries.
  • The instrument should fit within the technical constraints of the Gemini
    telescopes as they now exist.
  • The expected cost of the instrument shall be capped at a cost that is to be
    determined as part of the process of defining the RfP.
  • The technical risk of the instrument should be modest, i.e. the success of the
    instrument should not depend upon some not-yet-proven technology.
  • The instrument should be highly efficient, maintaining the 8-m aperture
    advantage.
  • Although proposals for all instruments fitting these criteria will be fully
    considered, it is the majority opinion of the STAC that a wide-bandwidth moderate-resolution spectrograph is likely to prove most compelling.”

Interested readers can see also the Board’s response, and the AOC-G advice that is referenced in the Board’s report.

We have begun working on the creation of the RfP. The process will begin with an optional, public Declaration of Interest stage, to facilitate collaboration between interested teams and individuals. After teams have been allowed to form and proposals submitted, we will judge received proposals largely on the scientific merits of the proposed instrument and the ability to stay within our cost cap. We anticipate selecting 3-4 concepts for more in-depth, funded technical feasibility studies. One to two instruments will likely go forward to the conceptual design stage, leading to an additional down-select and the construction of a single instrument. The total duration of a typical project of this size is on the order of 7 years from the release of the RfP to full operations at one of the Gemini telescopes.

The RfP release is planned for 2014. The exact timing will depend availability of  Instrument Development Fund (IDF) resources and staff to properly support the project, and the recommended prioritisation of the instrument procurement among Gemini’s numerous other activities. We expect to be able to supply further information once we know more about the progress of other projects, such as the procurement, acceptance testing and commissioning of other instruments.

The anticipated budget for the whole project is in the region of $12M. Gemini’s IDF receives contributions from the partners on a best-efforts basis, so future funding is always a source of uncertainty and the budget envelope is subject to change.

As the features and capabilities of this instrument have yet to be determined, for the moment it will simply go by the name of “Gen 4#3″. The Gen 4#3 team currently comprises:

  • Stephen Goodsell (Project Manager)
  • Rachel Mason (Project Scientist)
  • Andrew Flach (Contracts Officer)
  • Kayla Hardie (Project Support Associate)
  • Scot Kleinman (Project Sponsor)

We will be happy to take questions from the community, and will answer to the best of our knowledge at this early stage. In the interest of transparency, and because this will be a competitive procurement, questions in the comments to this blog will be particularly welcome. We will post updates whenever we have news to report (which may be infrequently at this point in the project). If you would like to be contacted directly when the RfP is released, please get in touch with Rachel Mason to be added to the list.

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