Issue 4 • September, 2006
Thirty Meter Telescope

M3 Delivers Design Concepts for TMT in Chile and Other Sites

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is the largest telescope enclosure project yet for M3, a company located in a major hub of international astronomical research, Tucson, Arizona.

M3 is an architecture, engineering, design and construction management firm that specializes in observatories and their support facilities. M3 provides an advantage for projects like TMT that require thorough study and design by both architects and engineers.

M3’s 20-year observatory design experience reaches from one-meter class telescopes to the large six- and eight-meter class telescopes that have come online within the last five years. These projects are located on sites with very different foundation conditions, ranging from volcanic cinders to hard rock. The variable foundation conditions affect the design of the pier and building foundations, the electrical grounding system, and the utility systems. “We have learned a great deal from past projects and are ready to take on the challenges of the next generation thirty meter-class telescopes,” says Dan Neff, President of M3.
Cutaway view of the TMT enclosure

M3 is responsible for designing TMT’s fixed enclosure, facilities and site infrastructure, for both the summit and support facilities. M3 has the architectural and engineering experience and enthusiasm for the job. “The TMT project, with all of its complexities is very challenging and rewarding,” says José Terán U., Senior Architect and Project Manager for M3.

The TMT project is challenging in that it must be designed for a baseline site as well as for other potential sites in Chile, Mexico and Hawaii. The baseline site is Armazones, Chile, a remote mountain at an elevation of 3,064 meters. The support facility is planned at the base of the summit, with a new access road connecting the two facilities to the nearest highway. Transportation of personnel and material, as well as adverse weather and altitude, all play an important factor in designing the TMT facilities.

Having completed several telescope projects in Chile and Hawaii, and with the Industrial division of M3 specializing in mining projects in Mexico, Chile and the United States, M3 has some advantages in designing the TMT facilities. “We have extensive databases and experience designing cost-effective facilities in these countries and on remote sites,” explains Dan Neff. This knowledge has helped M3 develop a conceptual design for the TMT infrastructure and facilities that is specifically designed for the TMT telescope and staff requirements, and yet is flexible enough that it can be adjusted for any one of the potential sites.

Until the final site for TMT is selected, M3 will continue to develop the TMT concept design so that it is adaptable to any site. Once the final site is selected, the conceptual design will go through a final iteration to make it as cost effective and site specific as possible before continuing onto the next design phase.

You have received this issue of the TMT Newscast because of your previous professional contact with the Thirty Meter Telescope Project, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) Inc., the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, or the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA).

TMT is supported in the United States by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the US National Science Foundation. Canadian funding is provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, the National Research Council of Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund.

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Copyright © 2007 Thirty Meter Telescope Project, Pasadena, CA