First Shipment to Chile

Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) achieved a critical milestone today, with two 40’ containers leaving their Santa Barbara headquarters en route to the CTIO observatory node in Chile. Inside the containers are three sets of enclosure walls designed and built by LCOGT for our 1-meter class telescopes. This is the first shipment of LCOGT-manufactured equipment to an observatory site in the global network.

While Las Cumbres Observatory maintains and operates two 2-meter telescopes – the Faulkes Telescope North (FTN) at Haleakala, Hawaii, and the Faulkes Telescope South (FTS) at Siding Spring in Australia, these telescopes were acquired along with the firm that manufactured the telescopes, Telescope Technologies Limited (TTL).

The LCOGT 1-meter enclosure walls, when they arrive on site, will be erected on foundations which have been poured. Three Ash-Domes, already shipped to Chile, will be modified slightly and then mated with the walls on-site.

Off-the-shelf observatory walls were reviewed and discarded as an option by LCOGT. In planning a network of as many as eighteen remotely and robotically operated 1-meter telescopes at six to eight sites around the world, it was clear that a high-performing and consistent set of walls would be needed. The walls design significantly reduces light and other environmental intrusions; helps to normalize interior and exterior air temperatures prior to the dome opening; is structurally stable while being lightweight; and creates a consistent arrangement of interior controls and equipment to support safety and maintenance.

Additional features of the walls and modified domes include new dome control panels and azimuth motors, enhanced lightning protection, integration with the site safety trap key system, dual red and fluorescent lighting, ducted 18” fans and cryocabinet intake and outtake, and insulated and washable walls. The structure is steel framed and laterally wrapped with both steel bands and corrugated exterior siding for lateral strength. Strong-Wall columns provide additional weight bearing capacity.

A distinct design requirement was to make the walls modular. Built and finished in a Santa Barbara warehouse, each wall set breaks down into six segments that can be moved individually by three workers, and a set of fasteners and preassembled electrical drops. Reconstruction on-site for three complete wall sets is expected to require approximately one work week with a crew of four.

The containers are expected to arrive in Chile and be deposited on site in late July. Additional components and documentation will be delivered to site via air freight, and construction is likely to be completed during August.

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