Reaching New Heights: Supplying Parts for NASA’s Telescope Quickly and Efficiently | Air-Way Manufacturing

Reaching New Heights: Supplying Parts for NASA’s Telescope Quickly and Efficiently

Friday, April 23, 2021

Located on Ascension Island, about halfway between South America and Africa in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, NASA’s 20-thousand-pound Meter Class Autonomous Telescope (MCAT) hunts the sky for space debris. The telescope is part of the ARES Division’s Orbital Debris Program Office, whose mission is to determine the total amount of orbital debris and predict the risk it poses to spacecraft, including the International Space Station.

The MCAT Telescope has a unique feature that allows it to track these fast-moving debris: a double-horseshoe mount. “MCAT’s very unique mount, designed specifically for fast tracking of debris at low latitudes smoothly through the zenith, is one of the only two telescopes like it in the world,” Susan Lederer, Ph.D., MCAT principal investigator and optical lead for NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, said. The telescope is operated remotely by Dr. Lederer’s team at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Ascension Island or Bust

Unfortunately, the team was experiencing intermittent, on-going issues specific to a limit switch on the telescope. Dr. Lederer worked with the telescope manufacturer to identify a better configuration for the limit switch. Once they had a plan, they needed parts… and fast.

To travel to Ascension Island, you must have permission from both the U.S. and British military and, to travel from the United States you need to book your flight with the U.S. Air Force. NASA only heads to the island every six months, so Dr. Lederer’s team had a tight window to identify and acquire the parts to fix the telescope.

Meeting a Critical Deadline

Dr. Lederer reached out to Air-Way and shared the new configuration plan for the telescope limit switch with Air-Way’s engineers. Air-Way’s team got to work studying the issue, brainstorming a solution, and designing and delivering hydraulic fitting parts in time to meet a critical deadline. If the parts hadn’t been ready in time, it would be another six months before NASA would have the opportunity to fix the MCAT telescope.

Several Air-Way teams worked together to make the project a success, including sales, customer service, engineering, and shipping. Working closely with Dr. Lederer to ensure her needs were met, Air-Way was able to move quickly and efficiently to determine and produce the right hydraulic fitting solution, without sacrificing quality.  

Our Team Has You Covered

Air-Way isn’t just a supplier, we are problem solvers.

Whether your machine is moving dirt on the ground, or tracking debris in space, the U.S. based team at Air-Way will make sure you have the parts you need when you need them. Reach out to us today to learn more.

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