The National Ignition Facility (NIF) is the world’s largest optical instrument, comprising 192 square beams, each generating up to of laser light in a beam precisely tailored in time and spectrum. The Facility houses a massive ( diameter) target chamber within which the beams converge onto an size target for the purpose of creating the conditions needed for deuterium/tritium nuclear fusion in a laboratory setting. A formidable challenge was building NIF to the precise requirements for beam propagation, commissioning the beam lines, and engineering systems to reliably and safely align 192 beams within the confines of a multihour shot cycle. Designing the facility to minimize drift and vibration, placing the optical components in their design locations, commissioning beam alignment, and performing precise system alignment are the key alignment accomplishments over the decade of work described herein. The design and positioning phases placed more than 3000 large () line-replaceable optics assemblies to within of design requirement. The commissioning and alignment phases validated clear apertures (no clipping) for all beam lines, and demonstrated automated laser alignment within and alignment to target chamber center within . Pointing validation system shots to flat gold-plated x-ray emitting targets showed NIF met its design requirement of rms beam pointing to target chamber. Finally, this paper describes the major alignment challenges faced by the NIF Project from inception to present, and how these challenges were met and solved by the NIF design and commissioning teams.
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