eso9108 — Organisation Release
VLT Main Structure To Be Built in Italy
24 September 1991
ESO is now awarding a major contract for its Very Large Telescope (VLT) to the "AES Consortium" of three Italian companies. It concerns the construction of the main mechanical structures of the four 8-m VLT unit telescopes, each of which will weigh more than 440 tons and yet must be machined with sub-micron precision in order to allow astronomical observations of the highest quality.
The Consortium partners are: Ansaldo Componenti (of the IRI Finmeccanica Group, leader of the Consortium and active in the field of energy generation components, located in Genova), EIE (European Industrial Engineering, in the field of engineering design, in Mestre) and SOIMI (Societa. Impianti Industriali, member of the Asea-Brown Boveri (ABB) Group, an integrated multi-service organisation specialized in construction and maintenance of industrial plants, in Milan).
The contract was signed this morning at the ESO Headquarters in Garching near Munich by Messrs. Ferruccio Bre33ani (Director General of Ansaldo Componenti), Gianpietro Marchiori. (Member of the Board of EIE) and Luigi Giuffrida (Managing Director of SOIMI) on behalf of the Consortium and by Professor Harry van der Laan, Director General of ESO.
The contract includes the design, manufacture, pre-erection and thorough testing in Europe of the four VLT unit telescope structures, as well as the subsequent dismantling, packing and transport to the site of ESO's VLT Observatory, the Paranal mountain in the central Atacama desert, 130 km south of the town of Antofagasta . The contract also covers the erection and final testing at Paranal.
The items to be supplied by the contractors include all of the steel structures which will carry the optical mirror cells and astronomical instruments; advanced hydrostatic bearings on which these heavy structures will rest; direct drive motors with 9-metre diameter which will move the telescopes (the design of these motors is based on an axial, dual air-gap configuration and they will be some of the biggest ever built), and high-precision encoder3 that will measure the exact position of the telescopes, so that they can be correctly and accurately pointed.
A schematic drawing of one of the four VLT unit telescopes with all of these components indicated accompanies this Press Release.
This contract requires very high engineering quality with respect to technical reliability, safety and lifetime in order to guarantee the planned performance of the VLT and to fully satisfy the high expectations of European astronomers in the scientific capabilities of their future giant telescope.
It is for this reason that the Italian firms have decided to pool their extensive resources and experience. EIE and Ansaldo Componenti have made important contributions to the construction of ESO's very successful 3.5-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT), including the construction of the octagonal, rotating building and the mirror cell with actuators for the computer controlled, active-optics NTT mirror. EIE was also involved in studies of the VLT domes. Another Italian Consortium, formed by Ansaldo Componenti (leader), CRIV and INNSE, constructs the 3.5-metre Galileo Telescope for Italy, a twin of the ESO New Technology Telescope.
The construction of the VLT main structures will start within a few months and the parts for the first of the four 8-metre telescopes will be delivered to Paranal in late 1994. The erection and testing will be ready in September 1995, whereafter the giant mirrors which are made in Germany and polished in France, will be installed. The other three telescopes will then follow in one-year intervals, so that the entire VLT complex can be ready in 1998, just over ten years after the decision by the Council of ESO to build the world's largest optical telescope.
The landscaping of Paranal which includes the flattening of the peak by removal of the uppermost 23 metres started this week. Construction of the concrete bases for the telescopes will begin towards the middle of 1992.
ESO EPR Dept