Alcatel wins ALMA contract

Alcatel Alenia Space has signed a €147 million contract with the European Southern Observatory to supply 25 antennas for the Atacama Large Millimetre Array project.


Alcatel Alenia Space has signed a €147 million contract with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to supply 25 antennas for the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) project.



The ALMA project is aimed at setting up an array of radio telescopes to study the origins of galaxies and the formation of stars from Chile. When completed, ALMA will be the largest imaging array of telescopes in the world.



Alcatel Alenia Space is leading a consortium of manufacturers from France, Italy and Germany, representing the European contribution to the project. The contract covers the design, manufacture, transport and on-site integration of the 12-metre wide antennas in the Atacama desert, at the foothills of Chile‘s Andes mountains in Northern Chile.



The ALMA project is an international partnership that includes North America and Japan, in collaboration with Chile. Alcatel says ALMA will enable the most sensitive radio-telescope network in the world to collect information in millimetric and sub-millimetric wavelengths.



All the antennas will work together as if they were a single telescope, using the interferometry principle to provide spatial resolution ten times better than the Hubble space telescope.


Alcatel says the ALMA project is a very daunting technical challenge, since the antenna surface accuracy must be within 25 microns, the pointing accuracy within 0.6 arc seconds, and the antennas must be able to be moved over a distance of 10 kilometres, and offer Sun-sighting capability. The observation array will cover more than 7,000 square metres.