Hawaiian Standoff Notwithstanding, Work on Thirty Meter Telescope Moves Forward in Pasadena

Published : Friday, September 20, 2019 | 5:38 AM

Scientists and engineers are hard at work on critical components of the Thirty Meter Telescope in Pasadena, even as the standoff in Hawaii between law enforcement and opponents of the TMT project enters its third month.

TMT said their engineers are already working with real full-size components of the telescope’s primary mirror to see how they fit and work together when assembled.

The organization said they have acquired an advanced metrology system to measure the telescope’s primary mirror assemblies with high precision.

“We now have a Portable Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM), which is a great tool for analyzing our assemblies and ensuring we meet the required high-tolerances for the TMT primary mirror,” Dr. Alastair Heptonstall, TMT Senior Opto-Mechanical Engineer, said in a statement Monday. “The TMT Optics team and Quality Assurance group have been trained this summer to use this CMM to test the M1 aluminum segment and its support assembly.”

The TMT Primary Mirror System is comprised of 492 active mirror segments, TMT officials said in 2017.

TMT said the accuracy of the measurements provided by the metrology arm is in the range of 25 microns, which is about a third of the diameter of a human hair.

When assembled, the components of the primary mirror will be tested to verify the process for the removal and installation of segments and assess the alignment of the segments.

Parts such as the segment sensor edges will be inspected, and the dust boots that cover the edge sensors will also be tested, the TMT laboratory said.

These same tests will be required and performed at the TMT telescope when it is built and integrated. All material, equipment, parts, components and processes supplied to the telescope will be inspected on arrival to verify their conformity with technical requirements, TMT said.

“When parts of the telescope come in, engineers will be able to check them and ensure that the product complies with the specifications and drawings of the CAD model” Heptonstall said. “Every time we take a segment out to be re-coated we will measure where the edges of the segment are compared to its support structure. This is required to protect every part of the segments, especially the corners of each segment that are particularly vulnerable.”

In Hawaii, the ongoing conflict threatens to further delay the observatory that has already taken a decade to get the permits needed for it to build on Mauna Kea.

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