The Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics (CIOMP) team is developing the Giant Steerable Science Mirror (GSSM) for Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) which will enter the preliminary design phase in 2016. The GSSM is the tertiary mirror of TMT and consists of the world’s largest flat telescope mirror (approximately 3.4m X 2.4 m X 100mm thick) having an elliptical perimeter positioned with an extremely smooth tracking and pointing mechanism in a gravity-varying environment. In order to prepare for developing this unique mirror system, CIOMP has been developing a 1/4 scale, functionally accurate version of the GSSM prototype during the pre-construction phase of GSSM. The prototype will incorporate the same optomechanical system and servo control system as the GSSM. The size of the prototype mirror is 898.5mm×634mm×12.5mm with an elliptical perimeter. The mirror will be supported axially by an 18 point whiffletree and laterally with a 12 point whiffletree. The main objective of the preconstruction phase includes requirement validation and risk reduction for GSSM and to increase confidence that the challenge of developing the GSSM can be met. The precision mechanism system and the optical mirror polishing and testing have made good progress. CIOMP has completed polishing the mirror, the prototype mechanism is nearly assembled, some testing has been performed, and additional testing is being planned and prepared. A dummy mirror is being integrated into the cell assembly prototype to verify the design, analysis and interface and will be used when testing the prototype positioner tilt and rotation motions. The prototype positioner tilt and rotator structures have been assembled and tested to measure each subsystem’s jitter and dynamic motion. The mirror prototype has been polished and tested to verify the polishing specification requirement and the mirror manufacturing process. The complete assembly, integration and verification of the prototype will be soon finished. Final testing will verify the prototype requirements including mounted mirror surface figure accuracy in 5 different orientations; rotation and tilt motion calibration and pointing precision; motion jitter; and internally generated vibrations. CIOMP has scheduled to complete the prototype by the end of July 2016. CIOMP will get the sufficient test results during the pre-construction phase to prepare to enter the preliminary design for GSSM.
The use of steel wheels on steel tracks has been around since steel was invented, and before that it was iron wheels on iron tracks. Not to be made obsolete by the passage of time, this approach for moving large objects is still valid, even optimal, but the detailed techniques for achieving high performance and long life have been much improved. The use of wheel-and-track designs has been very popular in radio astronomy for the largest of the large radio telescopes (RT), including such notables as the 305m Arecibo RT, the 100m telescopes at Effelsberg, Germany (at 3600 tonnes) and the Robert C. Byrd, Greenbank Telescope (GBT, 7600 tonnes) at Greenbank, West Virginia. Of course, the 76m Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank is the grandfather of all large aperture radio telescopes that use wheel drives. Smaller sizes include NRAO’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) telescopes at 25m and others. Wheel drives have also been used on large radars of significance such as the 410 tonne Ground Based Radar-Prototype (GBR-P) and the 150 foot (45.7m) Altair Radar, and the 2130 tonne Sea Based X-Band Radar (SBX). There are also many examples of wheel driven communications antennas of 18 meters and larger. All of these instruments have one thing in common: they all use steel wheels that run in a circle on one or more flat, level, steel tracks.
This paper covers issues related to designing for wheel driven systems. The intent is for managing motion to sub arc-second levels, and for this purpose it is primary for the designer to manage measurement and alignment errors, and to establish repeatability through dimensional control, structural and drive stiffness management, adjustability and error management. In a practical sense, there are very few, if any, fabricators that can machine structural and drive components to sufficiently small decimal places to matter. In fact, coming within 2-3 orders of magnitude of the precision needed is about the best that can be expected. Further, it is incumbent on the design team to develop the servo control system features, correction algorithms and structural features in concert with each other. Telescope designers are generally adept at many of these practices, so the scope of this paper is not that, but is limited to those items that pertain to a precision wheel driven system.
For decades designers of dish antennas and radio telescopes have known the aerodynamic properties of parabolic reflectors. However, site planners and end users are not necessarily versed in their properties, and so can place them on sites or use them in such a manner that the wind causes a maximum of disruption of the pointing and tracking performance. Parabolic reflectors make excellent airfoils, and as such act like an airplane wing in many respects. Having some knowledge of sensitive wind directions relative to the Line Of Sight (LOS) can lead a user to change his site selection or operating procedures to achieve the optimum pointing and tracking performance for most observations. This knowledge can also contribute information to help specify the necessary performance characteristics. This paper discusses the aerodynamic properties of parabolic reflectors so the reader can get a ready grasp of the issues.
Based on its certification testing, the 4.2 Meter SOAR Telescope can be described as one of the most precise pointing instruments in the world, however, this was achieved a little differently than other telescopes. This instrument utilizes gear drives in azimuth, direct drives in altitude, and rolling element bearings on both axes instead of hydrostatic bearings. This combination of features provides a lower initial cost, significantly lower operating costs, simple maintenance, less potential for contaminating both the environment and the optics, less thermal effects and a greater degree of safety. This is achieved by relying on a sophisticated servo control system adapted from much larger radio astronomy instruments and rolling element bearing designs with exceptionally low friction torque. The design approach was not "stumbled upon" but rather performance was predicted from the initial studies, through the proposal, the early design stages, up through the final "as built" configuration. This paper traces the development of the performance estimates through that period.
Dynamic Radio and Optical Astronomy instruments are becoming larger and more sophisticated, so they demand better, more precise control to enable the narrow field optics to perform their functions. Coaxing performance into the sub arcsecond region of pointing and tracking requires much more than just reducing friction and getting stronger gearboxes. It requires the designers to develop a fundamental feel of the structure's personality and its dynamic properties, the system nonlinearities, and macro- and microscopic aspects of the drive systems, bearings and other motion components of the instrument.