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NRT Preliminary Design Review Panel Session

Following the submission of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) document pack to the panel of experts on the 5th of November, the NRT project team presented various parts of the project in an online format over four days from the 29th November to the 2nd December 2021.


The PDR covers all engineering aspects of the NRT. This includes project management and systems engineering work packages. A brief review of the science case and science requirements was also performed.


This is the first major external review of the project since the Phase A concept review which took place in summer of 2019.


The Panel


The sessions were chaired by the NRT PDR panel chair, René Rutten, formally of the Gemini Telescope. The expert panel was selected to ensure wide ranging experience of design, manufacture and operation of large optical telescopes.


This wide ranging review required a panel with a wide range of specialist skill and experience to cover the variety of work packages presents. This covered everything from software and control to project management and optical design.


Below is a list of the panel members and their position or former positions…


René Rutten – Panel Chair – Formerly Director of Isaac Newton Group (retired)

Pedro Alverez – Formerly Director of Isaac Newton Group (retired)

Ian Baker – Gooch & Housego PLC

Alberto Castro – Institute for Astrophysics of Andalucía (IAA)

Steve Foale – Las Cumbres Observatory

Ana Manzanares – University of Madrid

Agustín Núñez - Formerly GranTeCan (GTC)

Gabriel Perez - Gemini South Observatory

Paul Rees - Glyndŵr Innovations

Rolando Rogers – Gemini South Observatory


Figure 1: Participants of the virtual PDR displayed on a zoom call.


Objectives of the review


A Preliminary Design Review is a major milestone in large engineering and science projects. It allows the project team to review both internally and externally to get feedback on the design and approaches taken.

Figure 2: José Barrera presents the TLS (low level software architecture), watched on by the IAC team.


This allows improvements to be made before designs need to be frozen ready for manufacture.


All project partners were represented during the presentations as part of the NRT project team including Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and University of Oviedo (UoO).


The week followed the agenda below focusing on all of the main work packages –


Initial findings of the panel


The panel provided initial feedback at the close of the final session. This consisted of a quick summary of each work package as viewed by the panel with a conclusion stating “the designs that were presented have the potential to deliver on the science requirements. But there are significant uncertainties and open ends to the project that the team should vigorously pursue in order to meet the goals with cost and available time.”


René Rutten also remarked “Thanks to the whole team for preparing the extensive documentation and for answering our questions, and above all, for giving the opportunity to learn about this exciting project!”


PDR Panel Report


The panel will now compile their full report which will form a review of the PDR document pack, the panel sessions and feedback to submitted questions.


This will ensure the project team can refine their designs based on the expert feedback to ensure the project remains on track to deliver the planned performance within budget and the timescales set out.


The PDR panel report is due 21st January 2022 at which point the project team will review the feedback and adapt designs where necessary ready for a baselining phase.


What is next?


With another milestone successfully completed, the project team will take a break over the holiday season and return in 2022 focused on progressing the project to Critical Design Review with a review tentatively planned for early 2023.