April 19, 2021

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Complicated work to repair the Arecibo Observatory

A month after the breakage of one of the cables of the Arecibo Observatory (OA), specialized personnel are in the process to determine the cause of the failure that allows the necessary repairs to be carried out so that the installation can return to normal operation.

According to a communication from the OA, a team from the observatory and the University of Central Florida (UCF), which manages the facility, has met with more than 40 experts in the areas of suspension cable fabrication and installation, structural analysis and forensic investigation while three companies: WSP, Thornton Thomasetti and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. (WJE) were hired to help coordinate research, analysis and repair planning.

On August 17, a detailed structural model of the current state of the entire telescope began to be drawn up, which should be completed in two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Gregorian dome has been moved to its safe position, normally used for hurricane events, and the safety pins have been installed since August 20.


Next steps

According to the statement, to determine the cause of the cable failure, the part of the cable and socket that failed must be recovered for analysis and forensic investigation. These components cannot be recovered until a comprehensive security analysis of the facility is completed. This will be followed by a safety plan for the personnel who will perform the work on the towers and the platform.

It was noted that the safety plan cannot be completed without structural analysis. A computer model will be used to create a structural analysis, which will help determine the cause of the cable failure and whether other areas of the telescope are at increased risk as a result of the break. This model will help frame the scope of repairs, along with costs and time.

“We know the process is taking a long time and we are eager to begin the repairs,” said OA Director Francisco Córdova. “However, this is a large and complex facility, so it is taking some time to make sure we are getting it right. We have to make sure we take all factors into account before we go ahead with placing people on the telescope to remove those pieces. Once they are in hand, we hope the schedule picks up the pace. “

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