The MMT-Pol Instrument Control System
Instrument control system (ICS) suites are a continually evolving class of software packages that are highly dependent upon the design choices and application programming interfaces (APIs) of the observatory control system (OCS), as well as the hardware choices for motors and electronics. We present the ICS for MMT-Pol, a 1-5 um polarimeter for the MMT telescope, in the context of being a transitional step between the software packages developed for facility class instruments at UF such as Flamingos-II and CanariCam and in preparation for 30m-class instrumentation.
Our goals for improving ICS suites are to make them (a) portable (compile once, run anywhere), (b) highly modular and extensible (through the re-use of common libraries), (c) multi-threaded (to allow multiple tasks to be performed in parallel), (d) smart, and (e) easy to use and maintain. An ICS should also be well-defined and use mature languages (we choose java and python) and common standards (such as XML and the FITS file format). We also note that as hardware moves away from serial communications to ethernet, the use of TCP sockets makes communication faster and easier. Below, we present our design choices for the MMT-Pol ICS and discuss our reasons for these choices and potential issues that must be addressed for future ICS suites ready for thirty meter class instruments.
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