Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Advances Deep Space Research

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory electrical engineering case study; Boston Engineering

The Back Story

Boston Engineering’s relationship with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) started in 2009.  The firm provides engineering expertise to help SAO develop next-generation, high-performance telescope-mounted optical instruments that are used to acquire data on astronomical targets.

Binospec is an imaging spectrograph with dual 8′x15′ fields of view, and a very compact layout for excellent stability. The technology helps to maintain large image scale, image quality, and focus across a wide temperature range. And it will enable scientists to conduct research at an order of magnitude deeper into space compared to other telescope capabilities. It is being developed for use at the converted Multiple Mirror Telescope (MMT) at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory at the summit of Mount Hopkins in Amado, Arizona.

The Strategy

As an extension of the SAO engineering team, Boston Engineering designed and built the majority of Binospec’s essential electronics assemblies. These included power control and communication, motion control, and calibration/flexure control. The Binospec electronics must meet stringent science requirements while delivering high performance within the following parameters:

  • Minimize power consumption to assure thermal stability of the optics
  • Comply with weight restraints
  • Minimize cabling
  • Eliminate extraneous light to enhance optical performance
  • Ensure serviceability as part of the design and development process

The Impact

Boston Engineering helps SAO maintain critical project milestones that move this exciting project forward by providing electromechanical engineering expertise throughout the instrument development and testing phases.