MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT         $94,000,000

The FY 1999 Budget Request for Major Research Equipment (MRE) is $94.0 million, a decrease of $15.0 million, or 13.8 percent below the FY 1998 Current Plan of $109.0 million.

(Millions of Dollars)

The Major Research Equipment account was established in FY 1995 to provide funding for the construction of major research facilities that provide unique capabilities at the cutting edge of science and engineering. Projects supported by this account are intended to expand the boundaries of technology and will offer significant new research opportunities, frequently in totally new directions, for the science and engineering community. Operations and maintenance costs of the facilities are provided through the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account.

In FY 1999, funding for five projects is requested through the Major Research Equipment account: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the Millimeter Array (MMA), the Polar Cap Observatory (PCO), Polar Support Aircraft Upgrades and the modernization of the South Pole Station.

Funding for MRE projects is summarized below:

(Millions of Dollars)
1 FY 1997 Actual includes only the South Pole Safety Project. A total of $3.874 million in FY 1997 MRE appropriated funds for this project was carried over into FY 1998.   South Pole Station

The South Pole is of particular geopolitical significance due to its location at the convergence of the territorial claims of six of the Antarctic Treaty nations. NSF supported activity achieves the foreign policy objective of maintaining U.S. presence in Antarctica, while providing an observatory for several fields of science. The scientific opportunities are unique as a result of the particular geophysical conditions at the South Pole.

Because of its location on an ice sheet at Earth's axis of rotation, its altitude and cold dry atmosphere, six-month-long days and nights, and its remoteness from centers of human population, the station at the South Pole has important advantages for conducting world-leading science in areas such as infrared and submillimeter astronomy, the study of seismic and atmospheric waves, and research on long-term effects of human activities on the atmosphere.

The United States Antarctic Program (USAP) External Panel, convened in October 1996, examined infrastructure, management, and science options for USAP, including consideration of South Pole Station. The Panel noted that funds specifically appropriated in FY 1997 (South Pole Safety Project) will rectify the most extreme safety, health and environmental concerns at the South Pole, but do not address the underlying problems of aging facilities in a life-threatening environment. They also stated that further life-extension efforts devoted to the existing South Pole facility are not cost effective, and recommended that the station be replaced. Based on this recommendation, the South Pole Station Modernization project was initiated.


The goals of South Pole Station Modernization (SPSM) are:

In FY 1998, $70.0 million was appropriated to begin the South Pole Station Modernization project. The FY 1999 Budget Request includes $22.0 million for the next phase of the project. Priorities in implementing the modernization project include increasing safety, minimizing environmental impacts and disruption of ongoing science, and optimizing the use of existing facilities during the modernization.

The USAP External Panelís Optimized Station model was the basis for Congressional discussions leading to the FY 1998 appropriation. The Optimized Station is an elevated station complex with two connected buildings, supporting 110 people (46 science personnel and 64 support personnel) in the summer and 50 people (31 science personnel and 19 support personnel) in the winter. The cost estimate for the Optimized Station is $127.9 million.

The current budget profile for the Optimized Station is below:

Support for SPSM
(Millions of Dollars)

The estimates include materials, labor, logistics for transportation of all material and personnel to the South Pole, construction support, inspection, and equipment, as well as demolition and disposal. The location at the South Pole requires significant lead time for construction projects because of the long procurement cycle, the shipping constraints (one vessel per year to deliver materials), and the shortened period for construction at the South Pole (100 days per year). With procurements beginning in FY 1998, construction is anticipated to begin in FY 2001 and to be completed by FY 2005.

SPSM Milestones


The current cost estimate includes several factors to account for the uncertainties and risks inherent in the project. The cost estimate includes a $6 million contingency for loss or damage to materials during shipping. The cost estimate also includes a location factor for labor at the South Pole: the initial estimate for labor at the South Pole was multiplied by 2.6 to account for the uncertainties of weather and logistics at such a remote location. This multiplier is based on previous experience on construction projects at the South Pole.

The project estimate used by the USAP External Panel in its recommendations did not include any cost contingency provision, although it noted that this represents a departure from commercial practices. Commercial construction projects usually include a contingency for cost variances between the design and planning phases of a project and award of the final construction contract. This contingency varies depending on the phase of the project and the reliability of cost estimates. For example, at the preliminary working drawing stage, a contingency of 10% would be added to the cost estimate; at the final working drawing stage, a contingency of 2% would be added to the cost estimate. SPSM is currently between those two phases. Adding a contingency for cost variance at this stage would add approximately $10.2 million to the total estimate for South Pole Station Modernization.

Also, a contingency for uncertainties in logistics costs -- market-driven fuel cost increases; aircraft maintenance and repair uncertainties -- would add an additional $1.3 million (based on an analysis of logistics costs during the 1983-1993 period).


Funding was provided in FY 1997 to address urgent and critical safety and environmental concerns at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. A total of $25.0 million provided for improvements to the heavy equipment maintenance facility, the power plant, and the fuel storage facilities. Milestones for each component are below. The project is scheduled to be operational by FY 2002.




Ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft are the backbone of the U.S. Antarctic Programís air transport. LC-130ís also support NSFís research in the Arctic. The Air National Guard (ANG) is in the process of assuming operational control of all LC-130ís and, by March 1999, will provide the sole LC-130 support to the USAP.   In order to support the Foundationís polar missions, at least nine aircraft are required. The ANG has six LC-130ís and also flies one NSF-owned aircraft recently acquired. Other NSF-owned LC-130ís require upgrades and modifications to meet Air Force safety and operability standards. The FY 1999 Budget Request includes $20 million to complete the upgrades to two NSF-owned aircraft. NSF is currently analyzing projected mission needs to determine whether a third NSF aircraft would need to be modified, for a total LC-130 fleet of 10 aircraft.

The current budget profile to complete two upgrades is below:

Support for Aircraft Upgrades
(Millions of Dollars)
1FY 1998 engineering costs are funded through the U.S .Polar Research Programs Activity of the R&RA Account.   The estimated cost includes engineering, avionics, airframe, safety, propulsion, electronics and communications, equipment for black box installation, storage, and project administration.

A competitive contract for the modifications will be awarded and administered by the Air Logistics Command at Robins Air Force Base (Warner Robins, GA). NSFís Office of Polar Programs will work with the project managers to approve, fund and track the progress of the work, to ensure the modifications are completed on schedule by FY 2001.


The Millimeter Array (MMA) will be an aperture-synthesis radio telescope operating in the wavelength range from 3 to 0.4 mm. The Array is planned to consist of forty 8-meter diameter radio telescopes located at the same site and electronically linked.

The MMA will be the world's most sensitive, highest resolution, millimeter-wavelength telescope. It will combine an angular resolution comparable to that of the Hubble Space Telescope with the sensitivity of a single antenna more than fifty meters in diameter. The MMA will provide a testing ground for theories of star birth and stellar evolution, galaxy formation and evolution, and the evolution of the universe itself. The MMA will reveal the inner workings of the central black hole "engines" which power quasars, and will make possible a search for earth-like planets around hundreds of nearby stars.

The FY 1999 Budget Request for MMA is $9.0 million for the second year of the Design and Development Phase. The total funding of the three-year Design and Development Phase of the MMA project is $26.0 million.


(Millions of Dollars)

Total costs for the MMA project are estimated to be approximately $220 million. International or other-agency participation at the 25-50% level is being actively sought for the project. Funding for the 5-year capital construction phase will be requested only after appropriate approvals by the National Science Board.

Following the Design and Development phase, NSF will decide whether to proceed to the second phase, a five-year Capital Construction Phase. This two-step process will enable NSF to evaluate the project before undertaking major expenditures.

Milestones for MMA are outlined below:

FY 1998 Milestones:

FY 1999 Milestones: Deliver prototype receiver, computer/software system to test site;
Deliver antenna 1 to U.S. test site;
Begin antenna 1 single dish testing.
FY 2000 Milestones: Deliver antenna 2 to U.S. test site;
Finalize agreements with international partners;
Assemble test interferometer;
Deliver prototype correlator to test site.



The FY 1999 Budget Request for construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) detectors, A Toroidal Large Angle Spectrometer (ATLAS) and Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), is $22.0 million. Total NSF funding for this project is $81.0 million over the period FY 1999-2003. Oversight of this project will be provided through the Physics Subactivity within the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) Activity.

Funding for the overall LHC project, including both the detectors and the accelerator, will be provided through an international partnership involving NSF, Department of Energy (DOE), and the CERN member states, with CERN member states providing the major portion. The total U.S. contribution will be $531.0 million, $450.0 through the DOE. NSF and DOE will jointly provide a total of $331 million for the detector construction, while DOE will provide sole U.S. support ($200 million) for the accelerator construction.

The LHC will be constructed at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland. The facility will consist of a superconducting particle accelerator providing two counter-rotating beams of protons, each with energies up to 7 TeV (7x1012 electron volts). Two detectors, ATLAS and CMS, will be constructed to characterize the reaction products produced in the very high energy proton-proton collisions which will occur at intersection regions where the two beams are brought together. The LHC will enable a search for the Higgs particle, the existence and properties of which will provide a deeper understanding of the origin of mass of the known elementary particles. The LHC will also enable a search for particles predicted by a powerful theoretical framework known as supersymmetry which will provide clues as to how the four known forces evolved from different aspects of the same "unified" force in the early universe.

The two LHC detectors will provide partially redundant and partially complementary information aimed at maximizing the chance of discovery. Both detectors will operate at extremely high data rates, which will push the state-of-the-art technology of electronic triggers, data acquisition, and data analysis.

Construction funding for the ATLAS and CMS detectors is scheduled to be completed in FY 2003. The overall LHC construction, including both the accelerator and the ATLAS and CMS detectors, is scheduled for completion in FY 2005.

Milestones for the LHC are outlined below:

FY 1999 Milestones:

Initiate construction and testing of components of solenoidal- and toroidal-field detector magnets, of the calorimeters, and the inner and outer tracking detectors. FY 2000 Milestones Complete construction and testing of components of detector magnets and calorimeters;
Begin assembly and testing of magnets and of the tracking detectors;
Begin construction and testing of components of the electronics trigger and data acquisition hardware.
FY 2001 Milestones Initiate assembly and testing of the calorimeters and the trigger and data acquisition hardware system;
Complete construction and testing of the tracking detector components.
FY 2002 Milestones Complete assembly and testing of detector magnets, calorimeters, and the tracking detectors; and
Initiate installation and testing of the overall calorimeter systems and the electronic trigger and data acquisition hardware systems.
FY 2003 Milestones Initiate installation and overall testing of the detector magnets, and both the inner and outer tracking detectors. FY 2004 Milestones Complete installation and overall testing of all major detector subsystems, including the magnet elements, calorimeters, inner and outer tracking detectors, and the electronic trigger and data acquisition systems. FY 2005 Milestones Initiate commissioning of ATLAS and CMS detectors. (Coincides with scheduled completion of construction of the LHC accelerator by the end of the year.)
(Millions of Dollars)

The Polar Cap Observatory (PCO) will be a multi-instrumented, ground-based observatory located within the Earth's northern polar cap. As directed by the Committees on Appropriation of the House and Senate, NSF has provided an analysis of alternative sites for location of the observatory and a report on the scientific justification for the project. The best location for the observatory is at Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories, Canada. In FY 1998, NSF is expecting to provide up to $5.0 million for generic design and engineering activities associated with the PCO through the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account. The FY 1999 Budget Request for the construction of the PCO is $21 million. This request will permit complete construction of the facility when combined with the up to $5.0 million in FY 1998 through the R&RA account.

The Polar Cap Observatory will consist of a large, state-of-the-art radar facility with an accompanying array of smaller optical and radiowave remote sensing instruments. The new facility will enable unique measurement capabilities of ionospheric and atmospheric properties in the high latitude Arctic in order to understand such phenomena as polar mesospheric clouds, the polar vortex, plasma patches, and sun-aligned auroral arcs. The new measurement capabilities are vital for studying and monitoring "space weather" -- the conditions in the space environment that can influence the performance and reliability of space-borne and ground-based technological systems. Space weather storms can cause disruptions to satellites, communications, navigation, and electric power distribution grids.

The PCO will complete a chain of five NSF-sponsored upper atmospheric facilities, filling in the key missing link within the polar cap - the region of direct energy transfer between the solar wind and the Earth's upper atmosphere. Through its contribution to improved understanding of global change and the space environment, the PCO will strongly integrate scientific discovery with service to society. Furthermore, the PCO will enable the U.S. to return to a position of leadership in the field of remote sensing of the nearby space environment of the Earth. Finally, the PCO is expected to be a major educational tool, providing exciting research and hands-on training opportunities for several generations of future space scientists.

Because of the short time window during the summer of each year when construction is feasible, PCO construction will last three years. This schedule will ensure that the PCO is fully operational in time for the upcoming solar maximum in 2001, the height of the 11-year cycle of solar activity, and to observe the associated space weather effects. The annual cost for the operation of PCO, $2.70 million, will be funded through the Research and Related Activities Account.

FY 1999 Milestones:

Complete building construction.
Complete radar transmitter and antenna fabrication, shipment.
Complete ancillary instrumentation engineering, fabrication, and shipment.
Complete software development.
FY 2000 Milestones: Complete radar antenna construction.
Complete radar transmitter installation.
Complete ancillary instrumentation installation.
Begin integration and testing of all components.
FY 2001 Milestones: Complete testing.
Begin operation.


FY 1998 funding of $26.0 million completed the construction-funding phase of the project for a total cost of $271.9 million. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) will be a national user facility for research in gravitational physics, serving many U.S. faculty, students, and other researchers. The LIGO construction project is being carried out through a Caltech-MIT collaboration. Construction of the major facilities at the two LIGO sites, one at Hanford, Washington and one at Livingston Parish, Louisiana, is nearing completion. Each LIGO detector is an L-shaped interferometer, 4 km on a side. Support for LIGO operations began in FY 1997 and is provided through the Physics Subactivity of the Mathematical and Physics Sciences Activity. The total operating funding for LIGO in FY 1999 is $19.8 million. Support for advanced detector R&D is also provided through the Physics Subactivity.

The primary objectives of LIGO are to detect gravitational waves, to test dynamical features of Einsteinís theory of gravitation, and to study the properties of intense gravitational fields. LIGO will detect the passage of gravitational radiation that originated from catastrophic stellar events such as supernova, binary star coalescence, or possibly even echoes from the formation of the universe itself. LIGO thus represents a new observational window on the universe and stellar phenomena. New gravity wave detectors, modeled after LIGO, are planned or are under construction by a number of other countries, providing opportunities for important international scientific cooperation.

Civil construction at both LIGO sites is completed, and the large vacuum systems, which contain the interferometer, are under vacuum. Contracts have been awarded for the lasers and many of the optical elements, with delivery beginning in FY 1999. The overall control system is under development. A final design review for critical elements, including the laser, length-sensing and controls, alignment, and environmental monitors has been completed. The project is on schedule and on budget, with first scientific observations planned for FY 2001.

LIGO Milestones are outlined below:

FY 1998 Milestones:

FY 1999 Milestones: FY 2000 Milestones: FY 2001 Milestones:  

The funding profile for LIGO is in the table below:

(Millions of Dollars)

The Gemini Telescopes Project is constructing two 8-meter telescopes, one in the northern and one in the southern hemisphere, in Hawaii and Chile, respectively. The Project is an international collaboration with the United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. The FY 1998 Appropriation included $4.0 million for technological enhancements and contingency funding. The total NSF contribution to this construction project is $92.00 million, all of it appropriated in previous years. This represents a 50% share of the total project cost.

Astronomers seek to resolve important questions about the age and rate of expansion of the universe, its overall topology, the epoch of galaxy formation, the evolution of galaxies once they are formed, and the formation of stars and planetary systems. It is now possible to build a new generation of optical/infrared telescopes with significantly larger aperture (8-meter diameter) than existing instruments that will provide better sensitivity and spectral and spatial resolution. Technological advances in a number of key areas of telescope construction and design will allow these instruments to take advantage of the best performance the atmosphere will allow. The Gemini project will realize these goals.

Milestones for Gemini, for both the project and technological enhancements, are described below: