CERN anticipates the first test beams will circulate in the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at the end of September 2021, following scheduled shutdowns to allow important repair and upgrade work to take place.

The second long shutdown (LS2) of the largest vacuum installation on Earth, which began at the start of 2019, saw its scheduled modified due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

CERN said LS2 is devoted to preparations for Run 3 of the LHC, which will have an integrated luminosity (indicator proportional to the number of collisions) equal to the two previous runs combined, and for the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC), the successor to the LHC, which will begin operation at the end of 2027.

To give the LHC’s main experiments – ATLAS, CMS, ALICE and LHCb – time to complete their own upgrade programmes, CERN said Run 3 of the LHC will begin at the start of March 2022.

Despite the difficulties surrounding Covid-19, and thanks to the hard work of the LS2 teams, CERN said the activities are going well.

At present, the LHC is already in its cooldown phase and the first of the accelerator’s eight sectors reached its nominal temperature on 15th November.

The sector was cooled with superfluid helium to a temperature of 1.9K or –271.3°C, which is the nominal operational condition.

CERN said the whole machine should be “cold” by spring 2021.

Next come electrical quality tests, powering tests and a long campaign of quench training for the magnets to allow them to reach their nominal magnetic field.