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Reliable energy supply for exploring the sun

Reliable energy supply for exploring the sun

Researchers from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) want to use the DKIST solar telescope on the island of Maui (Hawaii) to examine the changes in the sun and its effects on Earth in the near future. Central to the success of the facility is the reliable supply of power, and this has been assured through the use of two separate drag chain systems.

The Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) represents a collaboration of 22 institutions, reflecting a broad segment of the solar physics community. The DKIST was formerly known as the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST). It was renamed in honour of the late Senator Daniel K Inouye, who, in his nearly 50 years service as an elected representative, did much to support the telescope. With a planned completion date of 2019, it is expected to become the world’s largest solar telescope sporting a 4m aperture.

With such a large primary mirror to observe the sun’ corona, scientists hope to gain new insights into solar physics and a better understanding of how space weather affects satellites, power grids and other infrastructure. The DKIST will be the largest solar ground-based resource for high-resolution studies of the sun’s magnetic activity leading to sunspots, flares, coronal mass ejections (CME’s), the solar wind and solar variability. Polarimetric accuracy and sensitivity at high-spatial resolution on the disk, and far into the solar atmosphere (corona), is a high priority. The flexible and versatile first-light instrument suite, in conjunction with the active optics and a high-order adaptive optics system, will allow users to obtain observations that can address a variety of scientific questions.

A host of research areas at the facility includes magnetohydrodynamics and dynamo processes, flares and eruptive activity, magnetic connectivity, mass and energy flow in the solar atmosphere and long-term studies of the sun. A range of special topics and broader implications will also be studied.

To ensure reliable energy supply to the numerous individual consuming units, two separate drag chain systems are used in the gigantic telescope: two steel drag chains cover the vertical axis (azimuth) with a 420° angle of rotation. Another drag chain system with several individual carriers supplies the revolving sun-blocking panels in the roof area along the horizontal axis (altitude) with energy, data and especially coolants; the angle of rotation here is approx. 105°.

The remarkable features of this application are not only the dimensions and rotations which have to support the drag chains. Due to the unusual location of the telescope on a volcano at an altitude of 3,000 metres, maximum operating reliability with minimum maintenance effort also had to be ensured. The Spanish company IDOM, which was in charge of building the moving dome structure of the telescope, decided to use drag chains from Kabelschlepp Metool.

The task was to implement the entire project from the first design draft to final commissioning on site. Important requirements such as easy installation, suitable transport dimensions and easy-maintenance functions were taken into account during the design of the individual components and assemblies, and were a further reason for specifying the Kabelschlepp drag chains.

Steel drag chains with individual aluminium stays ensure optimum guiding of the partially very heavy and large hoses and power cables. In addition, steel drag chains are not affected by the strongly fluctuating temperatures in this environment, providing maximum service life and continuously reliable functioning, and so meeting one of the key requirements of the DKIST project.

To ensure reliable functioning of the system on site, Tsubaki Kabelschlepp installed the entire azimuth system in Germany in advance and subjected it to comprehensive testing. The experts used targeted preassembly of the components and perfectly coordinated transport planning to make shipping to Hawaii and the subsequent installation process as efficient as possible.

All drag chains were installed on site by local specialist contractors under the supervision of Tsubaki Kabelschlepp. After joint acceptance by the project partners, the unusual solution from Tsubaki Kabelschlepp is now ready for operation – the solar telescope on Hawaii is scheduled to start operation in 2019.

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