Press Release

NASA to launch Arctic telescope designed by AMEC

By SpaceRef Editor
June 6, 2005
Filed under , ,

NASA will launch a new generation telescope on Tuesday, June 7th (weather permitting), made possible by sophisticated engineering expertise from AMEC, the international project management and engineering services company.

“The ‘BLAST’ telescope will be launched in northern Sweden, reach an altitude of 25 miles above Earth, and fly across the Atlantic to Canada’s Northwest Territories by a giant balloon,” explains AMEC’s David Halliday, Vice President (Dynamic Structures). The flight will take 6-9 days.

AMEC’s Port Coquitlam facility designed and built the telescope’s carriage and aiming system. The collaborative project includes the universities of Pennsylvania, Toronto and British Columbia with financial support from the Canadian Space Agency. Never before has a flight of this kind been made with this level of scientific equipment and payload weight.

BLAST stands for Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope; the balloon’s volume is 37 million cubic feet, the size of a 33 storey building.

There is an international race to use ‘cosmic microwaves’ to answer questions regarding the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies. Scientists are excited about this flight because it demonstrates that sophisticated instruments can be flown in near space at a relatively low cost.

“AMEC’s experience and reputation earned from their work with previous telescopes made them a natural choice for the design and construction of the BLAST Gondola, which will support the telescope while in flight,” states Professor Barth Netterfield, University of Toronto, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. AMEC is an international leader in building telescope observatories throughout the world, including the International Gemini Project Observatories atop mountains in Hawaii and Chile. The company is also a key player in the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy, a group made up of industry, educational and scientific leaders.

AMEC plc is an international project management and services company that designs, delivers and supports infrastructure assets for customers worldwide across the public and private sectors. AMEC employs 44,000 people in more than 40 countries, generating annual turnover of around Cdn$11 billion. AMEC’s shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange where the company is listed in the Support Services sector (LSE: AMEC.L).

Scientists from several countries will be monitoring the flight of the telescope, which is being tracked by GPS, by logging onto

SpaceRef staff editor.