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As part of this Agreement ESO will continue and increase its contributions to the development of Chilean astrono- my and the educational and cultural development of local communities. ESO is indebted to the Government of Chile and especially to the Minister of Foreign Relations, Don Jos\u00e9 Miguel Insulza, and all those who have worked towards this Agreement and its ratification by the Chilean Parliament.
I wish also to recognise the contri- bution of all those at ESO who played a role in bringing this about. The ESO negotiating committee included both previous and present Presidents of the ESO Council, Professor Franco Pacini and Dr. Peter Creola, as well as many members of the Council. We are particularly indebted to Mr. Daniel Hof- stadt who has played a continued and significant role in the improvement of the Chile-ESO relations.
Together with all our partners in Eu- rope and Chile, ESO can continue en- thusiastically in this new and exciting scientific adventure of building the Very Large Telescope. All humanity without regard of national boundaries, will benefit from the wealth of new knowledge in the origin and evolution of the physical universe in which we live, which this powerful new observa- tory will bring about.
within up to 10 per cent of observing time on all present and future ESO telescopes in Chile. They also will have membership on all ESO scien- tific and technical committees. Chile- an and European scientific communi- ties will henceforth share the impor- tant scientific discoveries which will be made with the VLT facility at Cerro Paranal.
By this Agreement the ESO regula- tions for local Chilean staff will be modified to incorporate the principles of Chilean legislation regarding collec- tive bargaining and freedom of associ- ation. This new regulation will be draft- ed in consultation with a representa- tive of the Chilean Government as well as local staff representatives.
Concerning ESO\u2019s juridical immu- nity on all of the territory of Chile, the Government of Chile has indicated to ESO that these immunities are clearly stipulated in the 1963 Convention and that it is applicable to all properties and possessions of the Organisation, wherever they are located in Chile. Those properties, according to the Convention, should only be used by the Organisation in Chile for scientific and official purposes. The Acuerdo reconfirms these immunities and their validity for both, Paranal and La Silla Observatories. The issue of owner- ship of the Paranal site had been set- tled earlier in the year by the Chilean
On 5 September 1996, the Senate of the Republic of Chile (Second Chamber of the Parliament) approved the Interpretative, Supplementary and Modifying Agreement to the Conven- tion of 1963, which regulates the rela- tions between the European Southern Observatory and its host country, the Republic of Chile.
Following formal approval by the ESO Council, it is expected that in- struments of ratification could be ex- changed before the end of this year.
The completion of this process is a reason for great mutual satisfaction as the new Agreement consolidates the already existing good relationship between ESO and the Government of Chile, and heralds a new era of co- operation with benefits for both par- ties.
The ratification of this Agreement is of particular value for ESO, now en- gaged at Cerro Paranal in the con- struction of the largest telescope of the world, because it signifies a pillar of stability for the future activities of this Organisation in Chile and thus for the development and operation of the VLT observatory into the next century. The European astronomical commu- nity now has full security that it can continue to pursue its front-line scien- tific investigations in Chile.
The primary mirror cell and the prima- ry support system of the VLT have to ful- fil stringent requirements. The thin me- niscus blank demands a high-precision support system and good structural stiff- ness. Despite its moderate thickness, the weight of the primary mirror exceeds 23 tons. To be compatible with the over- all VLT telescope design, which has been optimised to give a high first eigen- frequency of the tube, the design of the M1 cell must be a light but stiff structure. In addition, the primary mirror support system has to be able to cope with the inevitable deflection associated with the large dimensions. Preliminary studies showed that a space frame of approxi- mately 10 tons weight, together with an appropriate hydraulic support system, would be suitable to support the primary mirror of the VLT.
The M1 cell forms part of the sub- assembly called M1 Cell-M3 Tower, and comprises, in addition to the primary cell and tertiary mirror supporting tower, the safety and handling support system of the primary mirror, the cooling system for the primary mirror, and the complete control electronics.
In April 1993, following preliminary feasibility studies, ESO awarded com- petitive design and development con- tracts to two European consortia, leading to a complete design of the M1 Cell-M3 Tower, and to a reduced scale mock-up of the M1 support system with actual size prototypes. The design of the French consortium composed of GIAT Industries \u2013 Branche Gitech, and SFIM Industries was finally selected by ESO, and a con- tract for the construction of this unit was awarded to the same consortium in Feb- ruary 1995. The major characteristics are described here, together with the summary of the manufacturing status.
The design of the M1 cell is based on the possibilities offered by laser cutting and welding technology of which GIAT Industries is a leader in Europe. The technology allows the manufacture of very complicated structures starting from thin metal sheets. It is possible to obtain large beams with very thin walls and internal reinforcements which is not
possible when using standard profiles. This possibility is extensively exploited in the M1 cell design to generate the variable section profiles used in the 12 radial rafters, and the complicated struc- tures on which the mirror supports are mounted. The various faces of the struc- tural beams and boxes are cut out from selected metal sheets in the desired shape by a computer guided infrared la- ser beam. The precision of the cuts is
such that, after manually pre-assem- bling the beams, it is possible to weld them in an automatic mode along the seam without any fillet material. A mini- mum amount of heat is introduced into the metal, and the residual stresses are low, which is advantageous for the di- mensional stability.
In summary, the laser technology re- sults in the following advantages for the design and the construction:
\u2022 absence of complex structural nodes requiring complicated cuts and welding,
\u2022 optimum utilisation of the steel with the use of thin sheets and tapered sec- tions,
\u2022 larger internal space for the instal- lation of equipment and better access than in a conventional space frame structure,
\u2022 the laser cutting and welding proc- ess, being computer controlled, is more economical for building four units of the M1 cells than standard construction methods. (See Fig.1.)
The M1 cell resembles a truncated cone with the upper surface having a diameter of approximately 10 m, and a thickness of 2.8 m. There are twelve ta- pered radial rafters, each of which ex- tends from one of the attachment points
to the telescope at the edge to three an- nular belts (rings) at the centre. Two of these belts are used for the M3 tower and its rotating stage, and the third for the Cassegrain instrumentation. All the assemblies have internal reinforce- ments to stiffen the thin walls. The top surface of the M1 cell is made of 7 con- centric rings which have been manufac- tured using laser technology and are used for mounting the axial and lateral
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