ASTA gains momentum

Jack Anderson

Over the last month there have been a number of encouraging developments related to Fermilab’s plans for the Advanced Superconducting Test Accelerator (ASTA) at the New Muon Lab (NML) building. Fermilab recently hosted its first ASTA Users’ Meeting. The interest displayed at this meeting went beyond our expectations. Eighty-four potential users—two-thirds of whom were from institutions outside of Fermilab—attended the meeting to present and discuss 24 proposals for experimental programs that could be carried out at ASTA. Attendees included researchers from universities, national laboratories and industry.

Held concurrently with the Users’ Meeting was the first meeting of the ASTA Program Advisory Committee (PAC), chaired by Gerry Dugan from Cornell University. The five-member PAC participated in the Users’ Meeting and then assessed the scientific potential of the various research proposals. Their report highlights the unique capabilities that a state-of-the-art superconducting linear accelerator brings for the accelerator R&D needs of the country. ASTA supports an extremely broad accelerator R&D program that stands to benefit particle physics, photon sciences and applications. The PAC report also highlights the cost-effective approach outlined in our proposal, noting the significant investment already made in ASTA over the last several years.

Meanwhile the DOE Office of High Energy Physics will be assessing Fermilab’s plans for ASTA this fall. The feedback provided by the ASTA PAC will be invaluable for helping to make the case for ASTA.

Impressive technical progress at ASTA continues. Earlier this summer, first electrons were observed from the photoinjector gun. Now, commissioning of beam instrumentation and further work on the gun’s laser systems is in progress. The cryomodule that will provide first beam acceleration in ASTA is being readied for cooldown, presently scheduled for the first week in September.

More and more, the accelerators of the future will be based on superconducting radio-frequency technology, whether for particle physics, nuclear physics or photon sciences. ASTA stands out as an R&D facility that can enable accelerators of the future by supporting researchers in their development of those next-generation accelerators and concepts that make use of this powerful technology.