Airborne’s CFRP mirror support structure helps astronomers capture human first black hole photos

On April 10th, scientists published photos of black holes captured by humans for the first time, opening a new chapter in human exploration of the universe. To capture this photo, astronomers from around the world mobilized a total of eight radio telescopes around the world for observation. Every other week, Airborne of the Netherlands celebrated the official website and was honored to participate in this great project and to provide composite structural parts for the ALMA telescope in Chile and the SPT telescope in Antarctica by Vertex Antennentechnik GmbH.

Airborne also announced that it will continue to deepen its cooperation with Vertex Antennentechnik GmbH to design and produce mirror support structures for the two new telescopes CCAT-prime and SOLAT. Thanks to innovative optical design and extremely high mirror accuracy, these two telescopes are highly anticipated by scientists.

As a Tier 1 supplier to Vertex Antennentechnik GmbH, Airborne will produce carbon fiber composite structural parts for the latter to support the main and secondary mirrors of the telescope. It is understood that both CCAT-prime and SOLAT are 6-meter-diameter telescopes that detect wavelength signals between the sub-millimeter and millimeter levels.

In the previous project, the design surface error of the Chilean ALMA telescope was about 25 microns, but the surface error required by the CCAT-prime and SOLAT telescopes must be controlled within 10 microns. This means that the deformation of the mirror must be less than 10 microns during the rotation of the telescope. To achieve this goal, the support structure must be guaranteed to have high stiffness and thermal stability. Carbon fiber composites are the best choice for meeting these conditions.

Automated production of high-end composite materials

Airborne CEO Arno van Mourik said: “Traditional materials will undergo large deformation under temperature-changing conditions, which is a taboo when designing mirror-supported structures. We must find new materials that do not deform, to ensure structural Stability, this is the advantage of composite materials. At the same time, in order to reduce costs, it is imperative to adopt automated production technology.”

Peter Fasel, general manager of Vertex Antennentechnik GmbH, said: “Exploring black holes is a great project for mankind. Scientists have built eight astronomical telescopes for this purpose. I am very proud of my team and five teams working on it. Airborne As an important supply partner, the company provides us with high-precision CFRP structural components, which is an important factor in our success.

To achieve the project’s goals, Airborne has adopted its Automation Solution (ALC). This solution includes work units such as automatic tape laying, automatic cutting, automatic picking and automatic stacking. It has a high degree of flexibility. A robot can complete the tasks of three robots on the traditional production line, greatly reducing the investment in fixed assets.

Expand cooperation areas

Airborne and Vertex have jointly completed the design and development of the mirror support structure of the telescope by combining their technical advantages. The two parties plan to start production of new structural parts at the Ypenburg plant in Airborne, Netherlands, in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Arborne van Mourik, CEO of Airborne, said: “Based on previous cooperation with ALMA and SPT projects, we have established a good relationship of cooperation and cooperation with Vertex Antennentechnik GmbH. This relationship is due to the emergence of CCAT-prime and SOLAT projects. And it has continued. Together we have broadened the possibilities of CFRP technology and led to the improvement of the entire material supply chain and products.”

With the progress of the CCAT-prime and SOLAT projects, the scientific community has developed a strong interest in the CFRP structural components designed and produced by Airborne, and has expressed the hope that Airborne can help design similar structural components.