Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024|
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CSO mirror removal route.
The decommissioning of a Maunakea telescope will have a dress rehearsal this spring.
The California Institute of Technology, which operated the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory on Maunakea until it was shut down in 2015, is preparing to dismantle the facility this year and eventually rebuild it in Chile.
But because of the challenges inherent in transporting the telescope’s largest component — its primary mirror, which measures 34 feet in diameter — crews will first conduct a practice run.
Simon Radford, project manager for the telescope’s relocation, said that crews will transport a dummy mirror from CSO to Kawaihae Harbor to ensure that there are no unforeseen difficulties.
“We really don’t want something to go wrong with this, and then we’re stuck closing the roads for hours,” Radford said.
The dummy mirror will be constructed of scrap steel and nylon strapping and will match the real mirror’s dimensions and weight, Radford said.
Both the practice run and the real thing will take place in four stages: from CSO to the Visitor Information Station on Maunakea Access Road, from the VIS to a staging area near the access road’s intersection with the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, from the staging area to a contractor yard on Waikoloa Road, and from that yard to Kawaihae Harbor.
Each of those stages will require intermittent closures of the access road, Daniel K. Inouye Highway, Highway 190, Waikoloa Road, Highway 19 and Highway 270.
The first two stages of both runs will take place over two consecutive days, and the second two over two consecutive nights, although Radford said the precise dates for both runs have not yet been determined because Caltech’s permits with the state Department of Transportation and the Hawaii Police Department have not been finalized. He added that weather also will be a factor for scheduling the trips.
“But I can say it won’t happen before Merrie Monarch (Festival),” Radford said. “We just want to give everyone plenty of notice before we have to close the roads.”
However, Radford added that the full process — from the beginning of the practice run to the end of the real one — should take place over six weeks. After the practice run ends, the first stage of the real run should begin within a 16-day window beginning roughly one week later.
After the mirror is removed, the dismantling of the rest of the facility will require no further road closures. Full decommissioning and site restoration is expected to be completed before the end of the year.
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