Press Release

Telescope to travel from Europe to Northern Canada over the next 6-9 days

By SpaceRef Editor
June 13, 2005
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Telescope to travel from Europe to Northern Canada over the next 6-9 days

The NASA launch of a new generation telescope at 9:10 PM EST (2:10 AM GMT) Saturday, June 11 was made possible in part by sophisticated engineering expertise from AMEC, the international project management and engineering services company. BLAST is a balloon borne telescope that studies galaxy and star formations.

“We are very pleased that the ‘BLAST’ telescope’s launch went as planned,” said AMEC’s David Halliday, Vice President (Dynamic Structures). “All reports indicate that the telescope’s carriage and aiming systems are working flawlessly.”

BLAST’s flight will travel across the Atlantic to Canada’s Northwest Territories at an altitude of 25 miles above Earth by a giant balloon. The flight will take 6-9 days.

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. The cost of launching a balloon borne telescope is roughly 1 per cent that of deploying a satellite by conventional rocket launch.

“With more than 20 flights each year since the early 1980s, NASA scientific balloons have proven to be a low cost and highly effective platform for flying sophisticated instruments such as BLAST,” said John Campbell, Director of Suborbital and Special Orbital Projects at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

The BLAST telescope launch had been rescheduled due to poor weather conditions.

“We have overseen the launch of over 450 balloon flights from Esrange,” explains Johanna Bergstrom-Roos, Information Manager, Swedish Space Corporation, which oversees the launch site in northern Sweden. “Strict attention is given to the safety of equipment and people. For this reason, we constantly monitor weather conditions throughout a launch cycle and only proceed when the best conditions are present.”

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

AMEC’s facility in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, is an international leader in building telescope observatories throughout the world, including the International Gemini Project Observatories atop mountains Mauna Kea in Hawaii and Cerro Pachon in Chile. Likewise, AMEC has expertise in the design, fabrication, and assembly of complex structural mechanical systems for the multi-billion dollar amusement ride industry. The facility’s strategic approach is based on the theme “Anything you can dream, we can build.”

AMEC’s Canadian Headquarters are located in Oakville, Ontario. AMEC operates from 164 offices in the Canada and the US.

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).

Please Note: B Roll of the launch will be available on Monday, June 13. Please contact Hilary McCann, CNW Group at (416) 863-5617 for more information.

Photos are available.

For further information: Media Contact: John Kageorge, AMEC, (604) 617-4745,

SpaceRef staff editor.