The M1 cell-M3 tower of the Very Large Telescope is undergoing final inte- gration and testing at the GIAT factory in St. Chamond. There, at the same factory (previously Creusot Loire) where the 3.6- m telescope of ESO was built twenty years ago, the French consortium of GIAT Industries and SFIM Industries, se- lected by ESO for the design and con- struction of the M1 cell-M3 tower, is working to complete the European test- ing of the first unit of the M1 cell-M3 tower.
The most noticeable part of the sys- tem, the laser welded, white painted pri- mary mirror cell, whose construction was finished in summer last year, is now fully equipped with the 150 axial supports and the 72 lateral supports of the primary mir- ror. Steel pipes of various diameters, all filled under vacuum with oil, interconnect the hydraulic pads to form the whiffle-tree networks supporting in the most accurate way the weight of the primary mirror. The force actuators, used for active optics correction are mounted and linked to the Local Control Unit through their dedicat- ed bus. Hundreds of metres of cable con- nect the many electrical boxes, the sen- sors and the other equipment spread in- side the cell. Although not much space has been left free, still remarkable is the accessibility provided by the cell design. On the top surface of the cell, the axial interfaces to the mirror with their tiny flex-
ures are now in position, optically adjust- ed to within a few tenths of a millimetre. The M3 tower rotation mechanics, em- bedded in the centre of the cell, is fully operational. Only missing at the time of
writing is the cold plate used to cool down the mirror to eliminate or reduce mirror seeing. The plate, located just below the primary mirror, will be mounted only at the end of the testing phase to allow at any
The testing activities in Europe start- ed in February with the hardware and software tests of the LCU. Afterwards, the active supports were tested. The M3 tower upper part was then installed on the rotation stage, aligned and tested.
One remarkable phase was the intro- duction of the primary mirror dummy. This operation was accomplished with the help of special jigs which allowed the mirror to be kept centred while it was slowly lowered on the tiny axial interface devices by means of the handling sup- ports located in the cell. Once the mirror was integrated, it has been possible to test and tune the mirror position control system, allowing the adjustment of the mirror in five degrees of freedom.
At the time of writing, one important milestone in the project has been achieved with the joint testing of the M1 cell with the huge handling tool, which will later be installed in the Mirror Mainte- nance Building in Chile. This machine, whose specification and preliminary de- sign were prepared by Max Kraus of ESO, allows the removal of the four pri- mary mirrors from the transport container and their rapid and safe transfer be- tween the M1 cells and the coating plant. The MMB Handling Tool, in its final version designed and built by GIAT, was erected in the St. Chamond assembly hall, near the M1 cell, to prove its com- plete functionality and to check the inter- faces. The testing included, among other things, a complete transfer cycle of the primary mirror dummy from the transport container into the M1 cell and back into the container. The European testing of the handling tool is now finished \u2013 the tool is being dismantled and packed in containers to be shipped to Paranal.
The final and most exciting step of the testing phase is the tests in the inclined test set-up. To reproduce operating con- ditions similar to those of the telescope, a large and stiff steel frame simulating the telescope centrepiece has been manufactured. The frame is mounted by means of bearings on top of two con- crete columns, built in the assembly hall. The M1 cell with the primary mirror and the M3 tower will then be attached to this structure at its twelve interface flanges and gradually rotated up to 90 degrees. This will provide the possibility of the complete verification of the system against the technical specification.
The successful completion of this test, scheduled for the end of July 1997, will allow GIAT and SFIM to ship the M1 cell to Chile. In the mean time the handling tool will have been erected, in time for the final joint acceptance testing of both the han- dling tool and the M1 cell-M3 tower.
There has been significant progress in the manufacture of the first secondary mirror unit of the VLT since the last report in The Messenger (No. 86, De- cember 1996). During the first months of 1997, tests of the various subassem- blies (focusing, centring, chopping and sky-baffle mechanisms) were completed and final integration was achieved in the clean assembly room of Dornier Satel- litensysteme in Friedrichshafen, Germa- ny. The systematic tests performed prior to final integration, including tests of the electronics and software integration tests were helpful for early detection and elimination of error sources affecting performance of the M2 Unit.
Before the end of April 1997 the Mandatory Inspection Point meeting which was held between Dornier and ESO, as foreseen in the contract, for- mally concluded the manufacturing and integration activities and opened the acceptance test phase, structured in four distinct steps. The first step is relat- ed to Electromagnetic Compatibility. The second step is the testing of the soft- ware. The third step checks in depth the kinematic and the thermal performance of the unit, taking also into account the environmental conditions foreseen on site. The final step is constituted by the dynamic and stability testing.
As per today the Electromechanical Unit has undergone the Electromagnetic Compatibility test and the Software tests. The electromagnetic compatibility tests, which were performed in the ane- choic chamber of Dornier (see Fig. 1), showed the ability of the unit to perform
properly in the electromagnetic environ- ment expected in the telescope. Similar- ly good results were also obtained dur- ing the software tests.
At the time of writing, the kinematic and thermal tests have started. The tests shall demonstrate the ability of the M2 Unit to position the secondary mir- ror along the five controlled degrees of freedom with the required accuracy. These tests are performed with a dum- my secondary mirror. Some of the kine- matic performances have been already demonstrated at ambient temperature. The M2 Unit is now being cooled and maintained at a temperature near 0\u00b0 C while the kinematic functions are oper- ated. During the thermal tests the tem- perature of both critical internal parts and the external skin is monitored.
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