HILTS: The Herschel Inspector and Long Term Scheduler
Any astronomical observatory has long term planning needs. Space-based observatories, especially those with a intrinsically limited lifespan such as Herschel, call for additional efforts to maximise its valuable scientific return.
At the time of writing, Herschel mission planning software manages ~50.000 observation requests, ~1.300 proposals from 500+ proposers for three instruments, 14 sub-instruments and 12 pointing modes. At the same time, there are multiple changing factors that impact scheduling, such as strategies to be followed, observational efficiency, scientific grades, ToOs, operational issues, proposal completion, etc. There are also pointing constraints imposed by many factors including bright objects, as well as power, thermal and communications considerations.
From past experience it has been proven that a priori optimization for long periods of time is not feasible due to the number of changing factors involved. The HILTS tool was initially developed to assist mission planners to optimize the planning process in the long term but at the same time allowing a high level of flexibility. This led to a tool with a special emphasis on visualization, query and statistics. HILTS was then easily extended to handle both future and past observations in addition to serve as a general mission inspection tool.
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