After several years of collaborative development and testing, ACG will supply materials for the manufacture of at least 25 ground-based antennas destined for a location high in the Chilean Andes.
The value of the contract is estimated to be in the region of 7m Euro over a 3-year period.
ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, is one of the largest ever ground-based astronomy projects. It will provide scientists with exceptionally detailed images of objects right out to the very edge of the Universe, where galaxies will be observed as they were some 10 billion years ago, right at the point of their formation. The ALMA project is an international collaboration between Europe and North America, in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. It is funded by the US National Science Foundation, the National Research Council of Canada, the European Southern Observatory, and the Ministries of Science and Technology and of Public Works of Spain. Thales Alenia Space, which heads up the ALMA European Consortium, has been tasked with providing up to 32 antennas. It is within this element of the project that the ACG and Thales Alenia Space agreement was reached.
It is anticipated up to eighty high-precision antennas will be located on the Chajnantor Plain in the Chilean Andes, some 5000m above sea level. Initially, fifty 12m antennas are targeted for commissioning around 2011 and 2012.
For the last 3 years, ACG has worked closely with Thales Alenia Space, and their chosen manufacturing sub-contractors, in the development and optimisation of advanced composite materials capable of producing such large, high precision structures in a variety of manufacturing environments. Key performance parameters include the requirement for extremely low thermal expansion and moisture resistance characteristics, combined with robust manufacturing processes that provide highly accurate laminate thicknesses. These laminates will remain stable over a wide temperature range and resistant to relatively high levels of UV radiation.
A key factor for Thales Alenia Space in choosing ACG as their materials supplier for the ALMA project is the Group’s ability to manufacture large structures ‘out-of-autoclave’; several critical antenna will be produced using this technique. ACG will be supplying a range of MTM prepreg and ZPREG product formats to Thales Alenia Space’ chosen sub-contractors. These products have been developed to provide consistent, low void levels, even in extremely thick composite laminates.
Jon Mabbitt, Managing Director of ACG said: “We are delighted to have secured this contract with Thales Alenia Space to assist them in this landmark programme. It highlights our continuing progress in research and development of new materials and products and our market leading proposition.”
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