Tectra Automation supplies laboratory equipment for Simera’s optical payload

Tectra Automation designed and supplied an assembly tower to integrate and align the telescope lenses for Simera’s SX1 Imager.

Mechanical and mechatronic engineering development company Simera recently designed and assembled a new space telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit earlier this year as part of an electro-optical payload for a satellite.

To execute the ultra-precise specifications required for the Simera SX1 Imager’s optical calibration, the company contracted Tectra Automation to develop a purpose-built assembly tower to integrate and align the telescope lenses at its laboratory in Somerset West.

The tower required a sturdy, highly stable design to mitigate the effects of any external vibrations when installing and aligning the lenses.

The structure was built using the Bosch Rexroth range of heavy-duty modular aluminium profiles and accessories. Inside the tower, a vertically translating carriage mechanism was designed to assist with the alignment of optical elements.

To achieve absolute control and smooth guidance of this mechanism, Tectra Automation used Bosch Rexroth ball rail system linear guides with pneumatic brakes for maximum rigidity. Four counterbalance units from Bosch Rexroth, positioned at each of the four corners of the carriage, were used to maintain optimum positioning control for the 30 kg telescope at all times in the assembly process. The pneumatic brakes were controlled by an Aventics panel whilst a linear scale with digital readout provided an accurate indication of the position of the carriage.

The tower was then mounted on an approximately 400-mm thick solid granite table suspended on vibration isolators to isolate the structure from any possible external vibrations, including those emanating from the nearby N2 highway.

“The optical tower was a critical piece of laboratory equipment in ensuring a fully integrated, optically tested and flight-ready solution,” explains Rosca de Waal, mechanical engineer, Simera. “Its design and construction provided the highly accurate and smooth vertically translating carriage Simera required to ensure optimum calibration of the telescope lenses.” The assembly of the flight model of the telescope was completed in December 2017, and was successfully launched in July 2018.

Following from the successful delivery of the optical tower for the Simera telescope, Tectra Automation has received an order to assemble an additional tower for a smaller telescope.


Find out more about Bosch Rexroth assembly technology.
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