Spanish Involvement with ESO

Spain joined the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in July 2006 and the membership was ratified by the Spanish Parliament in February 2007. Here follows some information about Spain's involvement with ESO as per November 2011.

Contracts totally ~17 million euro have been awarded to Spanish industry since Spain joined the organisation. In addition, another 13 million euro had been awarded to Spanish companies in relation to the ALMA project before 1 July 2006, in anticipation of Spain becoming an ESO Member State.

Discoveries by Spanish astronomers using ESO telescopes

A Spanish astronomer (Pilar Ruiz-Lapuente, University of Barcelona, was a member of one of the teams that discovered the accelerating expansion of the Universe. This work was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011.

ESO science press releases from 2011 that have involved Spanish astronomers and astronomers working at Spanish institutes include:

Number of Spanish astronomers and staff working at ESO

There are 32 Spanish nationals employed at ESO. 22 in Garching and the remainder at the Chile sites.

Spain has contributed to many aspects of ESO. In the following sections we list some of the largest contracts placed related to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) on on the Chajnantor plateau in the Chilean Andes, the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal and the planned European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) to be built on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal.

Spanish contributions to ALMA

  • The single largest contract with a Spanish company as prime contractor is that with TSK Electronida y Electricidad ( for the ALMA multi-fuel power generation system. This system is undergoing provisional acceptance in November 2011.
  • The company with the single largest share of an ESO contract is Asturfeito S.A. (, as subcontractor to the AEM consortium for the ALMA antennas.

Other Spanish companies with significant ALMA involvement include:

Spanish contributions to the VLT

Because Spain joined ESO after the VLT construction was essentially complete there was inevitably little early involvement. However, there has been Spanish involvement with later instrumentation, including:

NTE-SENER S.A., for the design, manufacturing, integration & testing of the GRAAL main assembly (GRAAL is the adaptive optics module for the infrared imager HAWK-I).

Spanish contributions to the E-ELT  

Spain has had major involvement with in the current design of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) and will likely in many cases continue this involvement as ESO moves into the construction phase. Spain has a clear interest in the future of the E-ELT especially the dome and main structure.

The main contracts awarded to Spanish companies related to the design aspects of the E-ELT include:

  • Preliminary design of the dome; IDOM Ingeneria y Consultoria S.A. (
  • Preliminary design of the mirror cell; Compania Espanola de Sistemas Aeronauticos (CESA) (

In addition IDOM, CESA, Empresarios Agrupados Internacional, SA (Madrid), (EAI, and NTE-SENER S.A. (NTE, have carried out several large “Front-End Engineering Design” contracts covering many major aspects of the construction phase of the E-ELT.

ESO spent approximately 10 million euros in Spain during the E-ELT Phase B.