A NIF target shot requires all 192 laser beams to arrive within 10 trillionths of a second of each other and to be aligned within 50 microns—half the diameter of a strand of human hair—all with the right frequency and energy level. It takes more than 66,000 control points to achieve this precision, as well as one of the world’s most sophisticated computer control systems. Two thousand computers running 3.5 million lines of code make it possible to fire the NIF laser efficiently and reliably several times a day.
The NIF control room is inspired by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Mission Control room in Houston, Texas. Control room operators access data through a hierarchy of on-screen graphics menus. Operators can also view videos of the laser beams and target from camera sensors incorporated into the beampath and target chamber.