Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cryogenic Catering Truck Comes to the ALMA Observatory

02.09.2011
The ultimate in high altitude, high-tech catering has arrived in Chile to serve chilled "provisions" to the telescopes at the largest astronomical complex in the world, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

Until now, servicing the state-of-the-art superconducting receivers inside an ALMA telescope has required hauling the entire 115-ton telescope from its observing site at 16,500 feet down to a support facility at 9,500 feet. The dangerous 40-mile roundtrip, atop a monster truck called the ALMA Transporter, uses hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel, and the telescope’s absence from scientific observing can be as long as four days.


After its month-long journey from Taiwan, the first of two Front End Service Vehicles (FESV) is being tested at the ALMA Operations Support Facility in Chile. In this photo, the FESV cabin has raised to service the interior of a North American ALMA telescope. This first FESV is named Mei hua after the Taiwanese plum blossom, a revered, winter-blooming flower. CREDIT: Carlos Padilla, NRAO/AUI/NSF

The newly arrived servicing truck, called the Front End Service Vehicle (FESV), is a custom designed truck packed with the equipment required to transport and service ALMA's temperature-sensitive astronomical equipment without removing a telescope from the working array at 16,500 feet.

"With the arrival of the FESV from our partners in Taiwan, we have delivered another critical element for the array, one that will reduce interruption to science, increase safety and efficiency of telescope maintenance, and reduce ALMA’s carbon footprint," said Dr. Mark McKinnon, North American ALMA Project Manager at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Dr. Mauricio Pilleux, who is heading up the telescope servicing project as the North American ALMA Deputy Project Manager based in Chile, said that ALMA’s telescopes will need technical attention every day. “It’s the most complex hardware ever built in so harsh a place. We need fast, safe, temperature-controlled servicing."

The FESV is based on the familiar Volvo FH 6x4 chassis: It is 36 feet long, 8 feet wide, and weighs 26 tons. The truck’s built-in scissor lift is designed to push its cargo cabin 20 feet straight up to align with the receiver cabin of a telescope, similar to catering trucks that align with airplane doors, allowing personnel inside to replenish provisions directly at the airport gate.

The truck enables personnel to service million-dollar, state-of-the art hardware at one of the harshest locations on Earth, the Chajnantor Plain in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Working at an elevation of 16,500 feet, the FESVs will be at altitudes higher than even small aircraft can fly. To function in this extreme location, the FESV has insulated walls and a 440 HP turbo diesel engine.

Each FESV also includes an air-conditioned cabin and an on-board generator to keep ALMA’s receivers cryogenically cooled to 4 Kelvin (-452 °F) during transport and servicing. The roomy compartments carry telescope power supplies, air tanks, and a suite of maintenance equipment. The most specialized of these devices is a sturdy forklift trolley, the Front End Handling Vehicle (FEHV), which is being custom-built in Chile to safely maneuver an entire three-quarter ton ALMA receiver cabinet, called a Front End.

"Even with its robust outfitting, the FESV consumes only 20 gallons of diesel during a servicing run, including the fuel used by its generator,” said Martin Oestreich, FESV Subproject Manager for NRAO. “Maintenance down time is also greatly reduced. A servicing turnaround with an FESV can now be achieved within an eight hour shift."

Said McKinnon, “ALMA's servicing fleet certainly is unique -- but it has to be, for such an extraordinary project as ALMA."

Upon completion, ALMA will be an 11-mile wide array of 66, ultra-precision millimeter-wave telescopes built by ALMA’s multinational partners from North America, East Asia, and Europe. These telescopes will work as one giant telescope to open a new window on celestial origins, capturing never-before seen details about the very first stars and galaxies in the Universe, probing the heart of our galaxy, and directly imaging the formation of planets.

Two FESVs were commissioned by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, with the help of one of their partners in ALMA, the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics. They were built by CoTech in association with Ke Chong Industries in Taiwan. The FEHV was designed and is currently being fabricated (respectively) by Chilean firms Prolaser Ltda. and Walper y Cía. Ltda.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership between Europe, Japan and North America in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in Japan by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) in cooperation with the Academia Sinica in Taiwan and in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC). ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of Japan by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI).

Tania Burchell | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nrao.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Significantly more productivity in USP lasers
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

nachricht Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Speed data for the brain’s navigation system

06.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization

06.12.2016 | Life Sciences

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>