You are here


Content owned by rdiaz

Latest News

April 2023

  •  Assembly, Integration and Verification phase tooling and mirror repolishing taking place. Subcontractors completed heat/cold stress cycling of the cold bench to relieve any machined-in stresses and remove any out-of-tolerance dimensions.

November 2022

  • The cryostat manufacture has progressed slower than expected, with the expected delivery to SwRI now pushed out to the end of 2022. Integration will start in early 2023.

June 2022

  • Integration is planned to start in September 2022: with the exception of the cryostat, all other vendor parts including optics have now been delivered.

July 2021

  • Procurement of instrument components has been ongoing since the prior update.  Approximately 80% of the parts have now been received.  The pandemic has affected the ability of some suppliers to deliver on time, and as a result, we are seeing a few components driving delays in the overall project schedule. The expectation is that all components will be delivered by the end of 2021, with the Assembly, Integration and Verification phase in full swing by the end of October.

Oct 2020

  • The project held a virtual management Quarterly Progress Review 19 & 21 October to review the project budget, schedule and top-level requirements.

Sep 2020

  • Officina Stellare passed their NIR Camera and Collimator pre-assembly review.
  • 25 of the 29 major procurement contracts (<$20k) have now been fully executed.  Subcontractors include:  Optimax Systems Inc (ADC, cryostat windows), Materion Precision Optics (beamsplitters), Winlight (VIS collimator and cameras), INAOE (Fold mirrors, VPH G, R, I prisms), Officina Stellare (NIR collimators and cameras), Wasatch Photonics Inc (NIR and VIS grating optics), Physik Instrumente (mechanisms), Dynavac (cryostat + assembly), Universal Cryogenics (VIS cameras), Leybold (cryocoolers), Teledyne (NIR and VIS detectors), Astroblank Scientific & Imaging LLC (MACIE cards), Semiconductor Technology (Archon controllers), Schott Suisse SA (Y, J, H, K and Z prisms), Vincent Associates (optical shutter and driver).

Aug 2020

  • SwRI took delivery of the visible filters from Iridian Spectral Technologies.

July  2020

  • Following the delivery and review of the remaining design documentation set, Gemini officially closed the Design Phase of the project on 28th July 2020.

June 2020

  • Gemini closed out the design of the focal plane mechanism, the VIS Optical Bench, the ADC, the VIS Detector Design and reviewed the design plans for associated hardware including support equipment.

May  2020

  • A number of design items were closed in May including the thermal design, the precooling design, the long bar design.
  • The SCORPIO moment and space envelop deviation request was reviewed and accepted.
  • Gemini received the first Instrument Controller Software release.

April  2020

  • The project held a remote software quarterly progress review early April.
  • The bipod design was accepted on April 23rd.
March 2020
  • UPDATE: The SCORPIO Quartely Project Review will be held via videconferencing.
  • The upcoming SCORPIO Quartely Project Review will be held in 2 locations; 24-25 March in Madrid and 2 April in San Antonio.
January 2020


December 2019
  • A VIS Collimators and VIS Cameras Opto-mechanics MRR took place on December 18 with SwRI contractor Winlight Systems; and Cooled Electronics Box and SVC MRRs on December 19 in Madrid.
November 2019
  • Following on from the SCORPIO Critical Design Review, a total of 5 Manufacturing Readiness Reviews (Electrical, Mechanical/Mechanisms, CEB, SVC and Cryostat) are taking place from  this month onwards.   A virtual Electronics MRR on November 6; NIR Collimators and NIR Cameras Opto-mechanics MRR on November 20, with SwRI contractor Officina Stellare in Madrid; Mounts and Mechanics MRR on November 21.
July 2019
June 2019
  • The project held its Critical Design Review (CDR) in at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) headquarters in San Antonio, Texas on 5-7 June.  Team members from SwRI, FRACTAL, Space Telescope Science Institute, Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University and Gemini Observatory participated in the review. 
March 2019
  • A readiness assessment will take place at the beginning of April. The project has now received the instrument’s four science grade visible detectors.
February 2019
  • Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) hosted a progress meeting in San Antonio, Texas, to assess the maturity of the SCORPIO project’s Critical Design Review (CDR) documentation set. SwRI has provided Gemini with drafts of the Critical Design documents and the team continues to work on providing additional structural and thermal analysis required for the review.
January 2019
  • SCORPIO presentations were held at this year's 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society. 
  • SCORPIO is featured in the January 2019 edition of GeminiFocus Magazine.
  • SCORPIO has received four near infrared H2RG detectors ahead of schedule. These long-lead items have arrived and are now ready to be installed during the build stage which begins this year. 


November 2018
  • Two key reviews are held this month; an Optical Design Review 14-15 November in Madrid, Spain and a Quarterly Project Review 26-28 November in San Antonio, Texas. The team presents a large amount of new work and demonstrats solid progress made since the last project review in August.
October 2018
August 2018
  • A Quarterly Project Review is held 27-29 August at George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, DC.
July 2018
  • An Optics Peer Review is held on 31 July in Madrid, Spain. 
  • SCORPIO is featured in the July 2018 edition of GeminiFocus Magazine.
June 2018
  • OCTOCAM has a new name: SCORPIO which stands for Spectrograph and Camera for Observations of Rapid Phenomena in the Infrared and Optical. More information provided here.
May 2018
  • OCTOCAM start the Critical Design Stage of instrument build.
April 2018
  • The Preliminary Design Review is held 4-5 April at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas. ​The review panel consists of 8 external evaluators (plus 2 observers) who spend two days reviewing the OCTOCAM preliminary design.
March 2018
  • Gemini announces Dr. Massimo Robberto of Space Telescope Research Institute (StSCI) as the new OCTOCAM Principal Investigator (PI). More information provided here
January 2018
  • Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) appoint Todd Veach as the new OCTOCAM Instrument Scientist. 
  • A Quarterly Project Review takes place 15-17 January in two locations: at FRACTAL in Madrid, Spain and at George Washington University, USA. 
  • OCTOCAM is featured in the January 2018 edition of GeminiFocus Magazine.


December 2017
  • Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the Gemini Observatory appoints Dr. Alexander van der Horst of George Washington University as the Interim Principal Investigator (PI). More information provided here.
November 2017
  • The Preliminary Design Kickoff meeting is held on 17 October and project members from Southwest Research Institute, Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia (IAA) and Gemini meet at SwRI in San Antonio, Texas. This meeting is accompanied by a number of technical meetings.  
October 2017
August 2017 
  • The OCTOCAM team meet for the Conceptual Design Review the first week of August. During the week, there are various meetings to help the team understand the nature of Gemini observing, and familiarize themselves with engineering and technical aspects of the telescope. The review panel is made up of 5 external evaluators who spend two days with both the Gemini team and the OCTOCAM team reviewing the OCTOCAM conceptual design. 
July 2017
April 2017 
  • The Conceptual Design Kickoff takes place on 19 April at Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia (IAA) in Granada, Spain.
  • OCTOCAM is featured in the April 2017 edition of GeminiFocus Magazine.
March 2017 
  • A contract between AURA and the Southwest Research Institute is signed on March 6th. Gen4#3 is now officially OCTOCAM.

The SCORPIO story

In 2015 based on the Gemini Instrumentation Feasibility Studies, Gemini assembled an independent Gen 4#3 Steering Committee to help guide the Observatory with the Gen 4#3 project. The committee produced a Science Assessment Report and Technical & Cost Assessment Report.

The reports summarized, compared, and contrasted aspects of the independent GIFS studies assessing the combined science-capability-cost trade space. Following STAC recommendations and Board resolutions, the Gen 4#3 Steering Committee made recommendations to the Observatory regarding drivers, requirements, and clauses relevant to the Gen 4#3 design and build contract.

Gemini considered the Gen 4#3 Steering Committee recommendation report, public community comments and feedback, financial constraints, time constraints, technical/interface constraints, Board resolutions, and STAC recommendations and released an RFP in May 2016. Evaluation and selection progressed through the fall of 2016 resulting in the awarding of a contract to the Southwest Research Institute. 

What is SCORPIO? 

SCORPIO is an 8-channel imager and spectrograph that will simultaneously observe the g, r, i, z, Y, J, H, and KS bands in a square field-of-view of 3'x3', or a circular one with a diameter of 4.24'. It will obtain long slit (3' long) spectroscopy with a resolution of R ~ 4,000, simultaneously covering the range between 0.37-2.35 microns. 

The eight independent arms in SCORPIO allow the user to adjust exposure times in each bandpass for increased efficiency and the best match to observing conditions. By using state of the art detectors - frame transfer in the optical and CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) in the near infrared - SCORPIO will have negligible readout times enabling high time-resolution observations.  

SCORPIO Science Cases

A capable instrument for extremely broad-band observations (both in imaging and long-slit spectroscopy), SCORPIO will deliver groundbreaking scientific output over a very broad range of topics that cover fields as diverse as trans-Neptunian objects and centaurs in the Solar System, exo- planets, neutron stars, X-ray binaries, active galactic nuclei, supernovae, tidal disruption events, and gamma-ray bursts.

SCORPIO's multi-wavelength spectroscopy (and the possibility for simultaneous multi- band imaging) makes it the optimal machine for the efficient characterization of astronomical transients - similar to those expected to be discovered in the 2020s by LSST, which promises to play a leading role in advancing our understanding of these objects identified through their explosive variability. The availability of high time-resolution, coupled with Gemini's rapid response capability, will also allow researchers to use SCORPIO to catch transient objects in their earliest phases and monitor their rapid evolution. SCORPIO researchers will be able to use gamma-ray bursts to explore the earliest star formation events in the Universe. It will also be ideal for following up and characterizing kilonova signatures of neutron star mergers, and likely counterparts of gravitational wave sources.

SCORPIO Instrument Design

Each of SCORPIO's eight arms is an imaging spectrograph, based on the use of high- efficiency dichroics to split the light. The light arriving from the telescope first goes through an atmospheric dispersion corrector (ADC) that compensates for atmospheric chromatic aberrations. The light then enters the NIR cryogenic chamber, where it reaches the focal plane unit. After the focal plane, the light is divided by the first dichroic into NIR and Visible (VIS) light. The VIS light then leaves the cryogenic chamber through a second window to the VIS bench which is approximately at the same temperature as the telescope. From there, the light of both beams follow similar paths, where the light is collimated and subsequently split by additional dichroics. The collimated beam of each arm passes through either a filter or grism, depending on the observing mode, and is refocused by a camera onto the detector. 

The Teams


  • Massimo Robberto, StSCI, Principal Investigator
  • Alexander van der Horst, GWU, Project Scientist
  • Pete Roming, SwRI, Project Manager

The Gemini Team 

  • David Henderson, Project Manager
  • Brian Chinn, System Engineer
  • Tom Hayward, Technical Lead
  • Ruben Diaz, Instrument Scientist
  • Rodolfo Angeloni, Project Scientist
  • Brittany Ochs, Contracts Officer