Corrosion protectionforworldslargestradiotelescope


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Corrosion protectionforworldslargestradiotelescope

  1. 1. Corrosion Protection for the World’s Largest Radio Telescope (ALMA)It was recently announced that the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array(ALMA) is officially open for business in the Chilean Andes. The new observation toolwill consist of an array of 64 radio telescopes, each linked together to make up theworlds largest radio telescope. The $1.3 billion radio telescope, a collaboration of manynations and organizations, will help astronomers and scientists explore some of thecoldest and most distant objects in the universe.To give an idea of the complexity and size of the array: According to the National RadioAstronomy Observatory (NRAO), AALMA is a complex of 40-foot (12-meter) radiotelescopes sitting at an elevation of 16,500 feet on the Chajnantor plateau in northernChile. These individual antennas each pick up light in the millimeter/submillimeter range— about 1,000 times longer than visible-light wavelengths. The antennas, each weighingabout 100 tons, can be moved to different positions in order to reconfigure the ALMAtelescope. This repositioning will be carried out by two custom-designed transporters,each of which is some 33 feet wide, 66 feet long, and has 28 wheels.The 12-meter-diameter antennas are manufactured by General Dynamics SATCOMTechnologies in Kilgore, Texas. So how does General Dynamics go about protecting andtransporting such valuable, enormous, and expensive equipment from Texas all the wayto the Andes Mountains in Chile? Very carefully. Everything must absolutely be doneright the first time. Moisture and other environmental elements can cause corrosion anddeterioration of these expensive antennas, especially during international transport. Thus,effective protective packaging and corrosion protection is critical.General Dynamics charged Protective Packaging Corporation with the challenge ofpackaging and transporting the very large antenna, nicknamed "The Blob", that was tobecome the first unit in the ALMA. Protective Packaging was to design and installpackaging for the 161,000 lbs unit that would provide protection against moisture andcorrosion during transport over the road from Kilgore to Houston, over the water fromHouston to Santiago, Chile and over the road again from Santiago to the foothills of theAndes Mountains.The protective packaging and corrosion protection work was performed at the GeneralDynamics manufacturing facility in Kilgore, Texas. Protective Packaging first installed afully enveloping moisture barrier bag of a material called PROPAK 7000 and thencovered the device with a reinforced tarp material called Armorlon AT-200. Finally, theprotected assembly was placed upon a substantial steel "lifting frame" by themanufacturers rigging dept. This wrapping process ensures corrosion-proof arrival at thesite 100% guaranteed.Over 16,500 feet up in the Chilean Andes, the world’s most complex radio telescope isbeing constructed that could revolutionize our understanding the origins of the universe.Currently, ALMA is only one-third complete, but is already the most powerful telescopeof its kind. Protective Packaging has been responsible and successful with protective
  2. 2. packaging and corrosion protection solutions for the ALMA antennas for internationaltransport over the last few years and we intend to keep doing it—for the sake ofunderstanding our universe.Tags: corrosion protection, protective packaging, corrosion-proof, moisture barrierbags, corrosion protection solutions, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeterArray, ALMA, PROPAK 7000, Armorlon AT-200