The Calibration & Test group serves as a bridge between the science realm and the engineering realm; the group is often the first stop on the way to instrument development. “Cal Group” engineers have the expertise to recommend the architecture for an instrument, as well as to identify the specific detectors and optics that will be the instrument’s “eyes,” taking the data that a science principal investigator is looking for.
The group functions by conceptually pulling together the mechanical, optical, and electronic needs of detector systems, working closely with LASP scientists and other engineering disciplines to understand the data that is needed and how that data can best be taken. The detector systems are at the core of the science, and therefore they drive the rest of the instrument design. The Cal Group works in collaboration with each of the other disciplines to optimize the whole instrument design to meet science requirements while keeping within other constraints such as mass, power, volume, cost, and schedule.
In addition to being one of the first stops an instrument makes, Calibration & Test is also one of the final steps of instrument development, when it is ready to be tuned. Once the instrument is whole, the performance of the various components must be confirmed through a variety of testing—for example, to ensure that detectors are looking at the desired areas of the light spectrum and that mirrors are aligned.
After a last round of finishing activities—shake testing and time in the bake-out chambers, for example—the cal group puts the instrument through exhaustive performance testing tailored to the individual instrument. For example, the instrument will be tested to ensure that it reacts appropriately to desired light and particle stimuli, while rejecting background noise.