Gemini North Observatory successfully began nighttime remote operations from the Hilo Base Facility control room in November 2015. The implementation of the Gemini North Base Facility Operations (BFO) products was a great learning experience for many of our employees, including the author of this paper, the BFO Systems Engineer.
In this paper we focus on the tailored Systems Engineering processes used for the project, the various software tools used in project support, and finally discuss the lessons learned from the Gemini North implementation. This experience and the lessons learned will be used both to aid our implementation of the Gemini South BFO in 2016, and in future technical projects at Gemini Observatory.
Gemini Observatory is an astronomical observatory operating two premier 8m-class telescopes, one in each hemisphere. As an operational facility, a majority of Gemini’s resources are spent on operations however the observatory undertakes major development projects as well. Current projects include new facility science instruments, an operational paradigm shift to full remote operations, and new operations tools for planning, configuration and change control. Three years ago, Gemini determined that a specialized requirements management tool was needed. Over the next year, the Gemini Systems Engineering Group investigated several tools, selected one for a trial period and configured it for use. Configuration activities including definition of systems engineering processes, development of a requirements framework, and assignment of project roles to tool roles. Test projects were implemented in the tool. At the conclusion of the trial, the group determined that the Gemini could meet its requirements management needs without use of a specialized requirements management tool, and the group identified a number of lessons learned which are described in the last major section of this paper. These lessons learned include how to conduct an organizational needs analysis prior to pursuing a tool; caveats concerning tool criteria and the selection process; the prerequisites and sequence of activities necessary to achieve an optimum configuration of the tool; the need for adequate staff resources and staff training; and a special note regarding organizations in transition and archiving of requirements.
Gemini’s Base Facilities Operations (BFO) Project provided the capabilities to perform routine nighttime operations without anyone on the summit. The expected benefits were to achieve money savings and to become an enabler of the future development of remote operations.
The project was executed using a tailored version of Prince2 project management methodology.
It was schedule driven and managing it demanded flexibility and creativity to produce what was needed, taking into consideration all the constraints present at the time: Time available to implement BFO at Gemini North (GN), two years.
The project had to be done in a matrix resources environment.
There were only three resources assigned exclusively to BFO.
The implementation of new capabilities had to be done without disrupting operations.
And we needed to succeed, introducing the new operational model that implied Telescope and instrumentation Operators (Science Operations Specialists - SOS) relying on technology to assess summit conditions.
To meet schedule we created a large number of concurrent smaller projects called Work Packages (WP).
To be reassured that we would successfully implement BFO, we initially spent a good portion of time and effort, collecting and learning about user’s needs. This was done through close interaction with SOSs, Observers, Engineers and Technicians.
Once we had a clear understanding of the requirements, we took the approach of implementing the "bare minimum" necessary technology that would meet them and that would be maintainable in the long term.
Another key element was the introduction of the "gradual descent" concept. In this, we increasingly provided tools to the SOSs and Observers to prevent them from going outside the control room during nighttime operations, giving them the opportunity of familiarizing themselves with the new tools over a time span of several months. Also, by using these tools at an early stage, Engineers and Technicians had more time for debugging, problem fixing and systems usage and servicing training as well.
The aim of the Gemini Observatory’s Base Facilities Project is to provide the capabilities to perform routine night time operations with both telescopes and their instruments from their respective base facilities without anyone present at the summit. Tightening budget constraints prompted this project as both a means to save money and an opportunity to move toward increasing remote operations in the future.
We successfully moved Gemini North nighttime operation to our base facility in Hawaii in Nov., 2015. This is the first 8mclass telescope to completely move night time operations to base facility. We are currently working on implementing BFO to Gemini South.
Key challenges for this project include: (1) This is a schedule driven project. We have to implement the new capabilities by the end of 2015 for Gemini North and end of 2016 for Gemini South. (2) The resources are limited and shared with operations which has the higher priority than our project. (3) Managing parallel work within the project. (4) Testing, commissioning and introducing new tools to operational systems without adding significant disruptions to nightly operations. (5) Staff buying to the new operational model. (6) The staff involved in the project are spread on two locations separated by 10,000km, seven time zones away from each other. To overcome these challenges, we applied two principles: "Bare Minimum" and "Gradual Descent". As a result, we successfully completed the project ahead of schedule at Gemini North Telescope. I will discuss how we managed the cultural and human aspects of the project through these concepts. The other management aspects will be presented by Gustavo Arriagada , the Project Manager of this project. For technical details, please see presentations from Andrew Serio  and Martin Cordova .
In 2014 Gemini Observatory started the base facility operations (BFO) project. The project’s goal was to provide the ability to operate the two Gemini telescopes from their base facilities (respectively Hilo, HI at Gemini North, and La Serena, Chile at Gemini South). BFO was identified as a key project for Gemini’s transition program, as it created an opportunity to reduce operational costs. In November 2015, the Gemini North telescope started operating from the base facility in Hilo, Hawaii. In order to provide the remote operator the tools to work from the base, many of the activities that were normally performed by the night staff at the summit were replaced with new systems and tools. This paper describes some of the key systems and tools implemented for environmental monitoring, and the design used in the implementation at the Gemini North telescope.