Penticton and South Okanagan
'Highway thru Hell' crew fixes dish
Oct 26, 2013 / 7:00 am
The radio telescope reflector, which was damaged while en route to the observatory on White Lake Road, is now being repaired.
According to Gary Hovey, project manager for the National Research Council, it has been popped out and other repairs will be underway shortly.
"We are just sort of carrying on," he said. "It is really just a few weeks bump in the road for us."
Immediately after the $300,000 carbon fibre dish was damaged while being transported from Okanagan Falls to the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory on Oct. 17, people started to examine it to see how it could be repaired.
They tried to pop it out with a crane that same afternoon, but that didn't work.
The next step was to use air bags.
Fortunately, chief engineer Gordon Lacy had recently watched the TV show "Highway Thru Hell," featuring Jamie Davis Heavy Rescue dealing with wrecks on the Coquihalla Highway, and he realized air bags might work.
"They are not air bags like you find in a car, they are like giant cushions," said Hovey.
They got ahold of Davis and he agreed to come out with a TV crew. They put the air bags around the dish and popped it out.
Hovey said they thought all along it would be something they would be able to do.
"It's not that we were cocky. We just thought it would pop out," he said.
Now a tent is set up at the site and they will work on repairs that require them to grind the carbon fibre away, put new fibre in and re-infuse it with resin.
Those repairs are expected to start next week. All that should be done by the week of Nov. 21, then they can put the back of it on and place the dish on a pedestal.
The 195 square metre radio telescope reflector is a key part of a dish prototype concept for the Square Kilometre Array, SKA project, known as the Dish Verification Antennae 1, DVA1.
The SKA is one of the largest and most ambitious scientific projects in history.
From 2018 onwards, thousands of dishes similar to the DVA1 and millions of radio receivers will be deployed in desert regions in Africa and Australia, eventually making the SKA the largest and most sensitive radio telescope on earth.
Video of how the dish was damaged:
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