ESO, the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, announced today that it has signed a contract with the consortium led by Alcatel Alenia Space and composed also of European Industrial Engineering (Italy) and MT Aerospace (Germany), to supply 25 antennas for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) project, along with an option for another seven antennas. The contract, worth 147 million euros, covers the design, manufacture, transport and on-site integration of the antennas. It is the largest contract ever signed in ground-based astronomy in Europe.
The Alma antennas present difficult technical challenges, since the antenna surface accuracy must be within 25 microns, the pointing accuracy within 0.6 arc seconds, and the antennas must be able to be moved between various stations on the ALMA site. This is especially remarkable since the antennas will be located outdoor in all weather conditions, without any protection. Moreover, the ALMA antennas can be pointed directly at the Sun. ALMA will have a collecting area of more than 5,600 square meters, allowing for unprecedented measurements of extremely faint objects.
The signing ceremony took place on December 6, 2005 at ESO Headquarters in Garching, Germany. “This contract represents a major milestone. It allows us to move forward, together with our American and Japanese colleagues, in this very ambitious and unique project,” says ESO’s Director General, Dr. Catherine Cesarsky. “By building ALMA, we are giving European astronomers access to the world’s leading submillimetre facility at the beginning of the next decade, thereby fulfilling Europe’s desire to play a major role in this field of fundamental research.”
Henri Boffin | alfa
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