Speaking at the 142nd session of the CERN Council on 22 June, CERN’s director-general, Robert Aymar, announced that the LHC will start up in May 2008, taking the first steps towards studying physics at a new high-energy frontier. A low-energy run originally scheduled for 2007 has been dropped as the result of a number of minor delays accumulated over the final months of LHC installation and commissioning, including the failure in March of a pressure test in an inner-triplet magnet assembly.
The first cool-down of an eighth of the machine (sector 7-8) to the operating temperature of 1.9 K began earlier this year. While this took longer than scheduled, it provided important lessons, allowing the LHC’s operations team to iron out teething troubles and gain experience that will be applied to the other seven sectors. Now tests on powering up sector 7-8 are underway, and the cool-down of sector 4-5 has begun. At the same time, physicists and engineers are making modifications to the inner-triplet magnet assemblies.
The new schedule foresees successive cooling and powering of each of the LHC’s sectors in turn this year. Hardware commissioning will continue throughout the winter, allowing the LHC to be ready for high-energy running by the time CERN’s accelerators are switched on in the spring. Beams will be first injected at low energy and low intensity to give the operations team experience in driving the new machine, before the intensity and energy are slowly increased.
Installation of the large and equally innovative apparatus for experiments at this new and unique facility will continue at the same time, to be completed on a schedule consistent with that of the accelerator.