February 20, 2020 - As a world leading specialist in crane rail solutions, Gantrex are well versed in the design of system solutions across a vast range of applications. However, when selected as an expert partner for construction of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory (formerly the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope) in Chile, the true scope of our specialist expertise was put to the test.
Based in one of the most remote locations on earth, The Rubin Observatory, www.lsst.org
, sees the construction of a mega telescope that will produce the deepest and widest images of the Universe. Designed to rapidly survey the night sky, the telescope will move quickly between images, and with its large mirror and field of view, will derive more light from faint astronomical objects than any other optical telescope on the planet. And the ultimate mission for this 10 year project? To provide a ‘set of images and data products that will address some of the most pressing questions about the structure and evolution of the universe and the objects in it.’
Speaking of the project award Srini Punukollu, General Manager of Gantrex’s Canadian operation says “Being selected to partner on such an epic project is testament to the trust that the client shows in our capabilities. This is a landmark program and we are honored to be able to play our part.”
The Rubin Observatory is a Federal project that is jointly funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, with early construction funding received through private donations through the LSST Corporation. The NSF-funded LSST (now Vera C. Rubin Observatory) Project Office for construction was established as an operating center under management of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). The DOE-funded effort to build the LSST camera is managed by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC).
Awarded the AURA contract to design, manufacture and supply a rail solution for the project, the Gantrex teams worked to devise a rail system that could carry a $10million telescope lens from the telescope to the cleaning room where it could be cleaned and coated as required before travelling back to the telescope for reinstallation. The construction of the LSST project site in the Chilean Mountains, meant that the rail system needed to accommodate a number of different zones as part of the journey, each presenting different specifications for the rail section. The rail was machined from a bespoke square bar that would meet the tight tolerances and shallow trenches. In addition, a variety of rail sizes were required to meet the varying trench dimensions in each zone as shown in the images attached.
Punukollu goes on to explain “The design of the traversing rails system needed to incorporate a range of critical factors, unique to a project of this kind. The system had to provide the required levels of durability and accurance, whilst providing a construction detail that would work in such a challenging and remote geographical position.”
Scheduled to begin science operations in late 2022, the Rubin Observatory project continues on schedule with the Gantrex crane rail installation in service this year.