SENER Aerospace will carry out the manipulation system for the primary mirror of ESO’s ELT telescope

04/07/2021 (Chile)
SENER Aerospace will carry out the manipulation system for the primary mirror of ESO's ELT telescopeAfter obtaining the contracts from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) for the development and implementation of critical mechanisms of the telescope, specifically the cells of the M2-M3 and M5 mirrors, SENER Aeroespacial will now carry out the manipulation system for the primary mirror segments M1.

SENER Aeroespacial has signed a contract with the European Southern Observatory (ESO), for the design and production of the segment manipulation system (Segment Manipulator, SeM) of the primary mirror M1 of ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which will be the Largest optical / infrared telescope ever built.

ESO’s ELT will have a 39-meter diameter primary mirror and will use a complex five-mirror optical system with the most sophisticated technology, a cutting-edge development in the field of astronomy to which SENER Aeroespacial has contributed its technology since 2007. From In fact, SENER Aeroespacial participates in many critical elements of the opto-mechanics of the telescope (units of the M1, M2, M3 and M5).

As in previous contracts, SENER Aeroespacial’s scope of work includes the design, construction and verification of the complete mechanism, also considered a critical system for the operation of the ELT. The primary mirror segment handling system (M1 SeM) is the only system that is allowed to fly over the primary mirror, which is made up of 798 mirror segments and 133 spare parts that undergo constant maintenance, with a continuous treatment to keep mirrors polished.

Among its main features, the M1 SeM consists of a segment manipulator, necessary to allow the daily replacement of part of the primary mirror segments and will include future maintenance systems for the primary. The manipulator combines a long lift travel outside the mirror, reaching 23 meters, with a short operating time of 2 and a half minutes. It also highlights the segment clamping mechanism in a wide operating range of 6 degrees of freedom, with high precision and repeatability.

Like the rest of the telescope mechanisms, the SeM must guarantee its correct functioning during the 30 years that the mission will last, in extreme conditions: the telescope will be located on the Chilean mountain of Cerro Amazones, at an altitude above 3,000 m , therefore subjected to very low temperatures, and in an environment that registers a wide range of humidity conditions and a concentration of dust particles in suspension. It is also designed so that it can withstand extreme earthquakes.

SENER Aeroespacial has been present in the field of terrestrial astronomy and large scientific infrastructures since 2000 and has a wide portfolio of projects that testify to the quality of its solutions, for clients such as the European Southern Observatory (ESO). SENER Aeroespacial’s work in Astronomy includes optical systems, electromechanical components and systems, instrumentation systems and large mirror drive systems for both ground-based telescopes and space systems. The list of customized precision mechanisms delivered so far by SENER Aeroespacial includes the positioning systems for M2 mirrors of the GTC, VISTA (ESO telescope) and IRAIT telescopes, the actuation system for the JPCam panoramic camera, the robotic calibration arm for ALMA,

For more information about ESO’s ELT telescope, we invite you to consult its new website: