Since the beginning of the design of the GTC, it was clear that in order to exploit the full diffraction-limited potential of the telescope, an Adaptive Optics (AO) system would be necessary, and provisions were made to ensure that the telescope would not limit the future AO performance. Well before the telescope entered its scientific operation, in 2009, the AO system was already in development.
The AO conceptual design was carried out during 2001, and in 2004 took place the preliminary design review. In January 2008 the project passed the Advance Design Review and started the detailed design and manufacturing. The integration of subsystems began in 2012.
The GTCAO system was initially developed by the GTC project office but due to a lack of resources in the development team, the project paused in 2013. An agreement between IAC, GTC and the Canary Government was made in order to continue the development and incorporate, as a second phase, a Laser Guide Star facility. The project restarted effectively in 2015 under IAC personnel responsibility.
In mid-2017, a complete project review was carried out by external experts in AO. It should be noted, among the various and useful recommendations, the proposal to discard the option of using the atmospheric corrector (ADC) for Day 1, leaving it as an option for improvement in the future in the case this is considered essential after the use of GTCAO at the telescope.
During 2018, the integration phase was completed and operational verification of the entire system began. The first closed loop tests of the system took place in May 2018, with satisfactory results. During 2019 the system has been optimized and updated and is ready to start factory validation tests. It is expected to have the system operative for installation in telescope at the end of 2020.
3D model view of the GTCAO components
View of GTCAO during AIV at the laboratory