Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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. More than two thousand computers running 5 million lines of code make it possible to align and fire the 192 NIF laser beams with some 800 channels of target diagnostic data efficiently and reliably several times a day. The control system uses predetermined set-up and alignment scripts with operator oversight while test and full shot countdown sequences are fully automated.

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.

More Information

“Keeping NIF’s Symphony of Controls in Tune,” NIF & Photon Science News, February 12, 2020

“Jorge Castro Morales Thrives on Multiple Responsibilities,” NIF & Photon Science News, February 12, 2020

“Fusing software expertise with complex laser facility operations”

“Harnessing Laser-Like Focus to Improve System Efficiency and Reliability”

“From Data to Discovery,” Science & Technology Review, January/February, 2011, Page 12 (PDF)

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