Today, the first of the two ALMA antenna transporters was given its name at a ceremony on the compounds of the manufacturer, the heavy-vehicle specialist Scheuerle Fahrzeugfabrik GmbH, in Baden-Württemberg. The colossus, 10 metres wide, 20 metres long and 6 metres high, will be shipped to Chile by the end of the month. The second one will follow in a few weeks.
The transporter was named 'Otto' in honour of Otto Rettenmaier, the owner of the Scheuerle company. "The rather unusual move to name a vehicle is a recognition of the remarkable achievement these unique machines represent," said Hans Rykaczewski, the European ALMA Project Manager. "Their sizes alone would justify using superlatives to describe them. But they are also outstanding as they will operate at 5000 metres altitude, where the air is rare, and they have to be able to place 115-ton antennas with a precision of a few millimetres," he added.
"The ALMA antenna transporters are the proof of the excellence of our staff and of our ability to build heavy vehicles that are at the limits of the possible," said Otto Rettenmaier. "Never in the history of our company have we had to comply with such exceptional requirements on material and techniques as we had to do with these machines. We are proud as a company to have been able to contribute with such an exceptional piece of technology for astronomical research."
The ALMA Project, in which ESO leads the construction and the operations on behalf of Europe, is a giant, international observatory currently in construction on the high-altitude Chajnantor site in Chile, which will be composed initially of 66 high-precision telescopes, operating at wavelengths of 0.3 to 9.6 mm. The ALMA antennas will be electronically combined and provide astronomical observations which are equivalent to a single large telescope of tremendous size and resolution.
The 66 antennas of the array can be placed on 192 different pads, covering antenna configurations as compact as 150 metres to as wide as 15 kilometres. Changing the relative positions of the antennas and thus also the configuration of the array allows for different observing modes, comparable to using a zoom lens on a camera.
Given their important functions, both for the scientific work and in transporting high-tech antennas with the required care, the vehicles must live up to very demanding operational requirements. To address these, Scheuerle has developed and built two very special transporters. Building heavy vehicles able to transport with great precision 115-ton antennas is not a problem per se for this company, which specialises in building huge transporters. The problem however was to produce a vehicle able to operate at such a high altitude, where the two engines will lose about half of their power (compared to sea level) because of the reduced oxygen content of the air. With their two 500 kW diesel engines (nearly as much as two Formula 1 engines), the ALMA transporters will be able to move at the speed of 20 km/h when empty and 12 km/h when loaded with an antenna.
Notwithstanding its impressive dimensions, the transporter can be manoeuvred by a single operator, the precise positioning being made possible by a hydrostatic system while the electronic 28-wheel drive allows very precise motions."When completed in 2012, ALMA will be the largest and most capable imaging array of telescopes in the world," said Massimo Tarenghi, the ALMA Director. "The ALMA antenna transporters, which are unique technological jewels, beautifully illustrate how we are actively progressing towards this goal."
ALMA will be able to probe the Universe at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution, with an accuracy up to ten times better than the Hubble Space Telescope, and complementing images made with ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer.
ALMA will be the forefront instrument for studying the cool universe - the relic radiation of the Big Bang, and the molecular gas and dust that constitute the very building blocks of stars, planetary systems, galaxies, and life itself.
Because ALMA will observe in the millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths the atmosphere above the telescope must be transparent. This requires a site that is high and dry. ALMA will thus be installed at the 5000m high plateau of Chajnantor in the Atacama Desert of Chile, the world's driest area - the next best location to outer space for these high-accuracy astronomical observations.
The ALMA project is a partnership between Europe, East Asia and North America in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by ESO, in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica in Taiwan and in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc.
Henri Boffin | alfa
New players, standardization and digitalization for more rail freight transport
16.07.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
A helping (Sens)Hand
11.04.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO
So-called bifacial stem cells are responsible for one of the most critical growth processes on Earth – the formation of wood.
Immune cells called macrophages are supposed to serve and protect, but cancer has found ways to put them to sleep. Now researchers at the Abramson Cancer...
The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research
Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI
The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...
World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles
The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.
Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.
In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...
16.01.2019 | Event News
14.01.2019 | Event News
12.12.2018 | Event News
22.01.2019 | Life Sciences
22.01.2019 | Architecture and Construction
22.01.2019 | Life Sciences