NASA is a 1/6 partner in the two 10-m telescopes of the William M. Keck Observatory. Access to NASA's share of this time on the Keck telescopes, approximately 90 nights per year, is available to all astronomers resident at US institutions. Proposals are submitted twice a year to the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) which runs the selection process on behalf of all science disciplines in NASA's Astrophysics and Planetary Science Divisions. Observing time is awarded on the basis of scientific merit and the degree to which the proposed program supports NASA missions and/or NASA's strategic goals.
Starting in 2016, NASA set aside 1/3 of its allocation for Key Strategic Mission Support programs (KSMS). These programs were required to demonstrate a critical need for ground-based data in direct support of an on-going or a future space mission. In the 2016A semester, NASA selected three KSMS projects for a 2 year duration: follow-up of transiting exoplanet candidates found by the K2 mission (Andrew Howard, PI, Hawaii/Caltech, 40 nights over 2 years); calibration of photometric redshifts for the EUCLID mission using spectroscopic redshifts of over 1,000 galaxies (Dan Stern, JPL, PI, 10 nights over 2 years); and a search for evidence of water and active generation of plumes in support of the Europa Clipper project (Lucas Paganini, U. Catholic/GSFC, PI, 10 nights over 2 years). All three programs come to an end at the completion of the 2017B semester.
In the expectation that NASA's 5-year Cooperative Agreement with William M. Keck Observatory will be renewed for the period 2018-2022, NASA is planning to release a new call for KSMS projects to begin with the 2018A semester. Details of the opportunity and the proposal process will be announced when the 2018A Call for Proposals is released early in August 2017 with non-binding notices of intent due shortly thereafter. All proposals for the 2018A semester will be due on September 14, 2017. A KSMS project is typically multi-semester, spanning 10-60 nights over a time period of up to three years. The KSMS opportunity will be open for all topics/missions in astrophysics and planetary science.
NExScI administers NASA's portion of the time on the Keck Telescopes, issuing the twice yearly proposal solicitations, conducting the peer review, and finalizing selections.
The Keck Telescopes are operated for the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), the University of Hawaii (UH), NASA and the California Institute of Technology by the W. M. Keck Observatory in Waimea, Hawaii. The Keck telescopes are two 10-meter aperture telescopes whose primary mirrors are each composed of thirty-six 2 meter mirror segments.
Remote observing facilities (ROFs) at Caltech, Yale, and USRA (Columbia, MD) are available for use by NASA Keck time awardees. Scientists wishing to use the ROFs should start the approval process 5 weeks in advance of their scheduled observations.
NExScI and WMKO have developed the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA) an archiving and access system for the following Keck datasets: DEIMOS, ESI, HIRES, Keck Interferometer, LRIS, MOSFIRE, NIRC2, and NIRSPEC.
NExScI facilitates the NASA Keck Management and Operations Working Group (MOWG). The MOWG reviews all aspects of the operations of the facility, including budgets, observing proposal review, visitor support, telescope performance, maintenance, instrumentation, operational procedures, scientific results, and future plans. The group meets twice a year and reports to NASA Headquarters. Current membership of the NASA Keck MOWG can be found here.