Ball Aerospace to Build Lens Assembly for World’s Largest Digital Camera

A 2010 rendering of the LSST, a proposed 8.4-meter ground-based telescope that will survey the entire visible sky in multiple colors  from a mountaintop in Chile. Photo courtesy of LSST Corp./NOAO

A 2010 rendering of the LSST, a proposed 8.4-meter ground-based telescope that will survey the entire visible sky in multiple colors from a mountaintop in Chile. Photo courtesy of LSST Corp./NOAO

Boulder, Colorado. June 19, 2014 – Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has been selected by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to build the optics and support structure for what will be the world’s largest digital camera. The camera is part of the 8.4-meter Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which will be used to survey the entire visible sky.

Every three nights, the LSST camera will take an image of the night sky, capturing billions of objects in six colors to create a Hollywood-like motion picture. The images will allow researchers to study how objects move and change brightness over time in order to understand the formation of the universe and the nature of dark energy.

“Ball has significant expertise in designing and fabricating high performance optical systems,” said Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager for Ball’s Civil Space and Technology business unit. “In this market we’ll leverage our experience with large optics from space-borne telescopes, such as those we built for NASA’s Kepler mission and the Operational Land Imager aboard NASA’s Landsat-8 mission.”

Ball Aerospace is teamed with Arizona Optical Systems (AOS) to build the lens assembly consisting of two large refractive lenses and the precision support structure to mount the lenses. AOS will machine and polish the lenses and perform optical testing. Ball Aerospace will design and integrate the mechanical assembly, support optical/mechanical integration and conduct testing at AOS along with overall management.

“We look forward to working with AOS for their fabrication and optical testing expertise to provide a high quality, affordable solution to our customer,” said Oschmann.

The LSST will be constructed on Cerro Pachón, a mountain in northern Chile, where it’s expected to operate continuously over a 10-year period. The LSST images and data will be open and available to the public via the Web.

Livermore has played a pivotal role in the LSST project over the last decade, including development of the overall optical design, and leadership in the development of the operations simulator.

Thirty-four universities and national labs have joined together in a public private partnership to build LSST. The National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy Office of Science have contributed funds for design and development.

Ball previously worked with AOS to build Ball’s Universal Collimator Assembly, a large ground-based optical testing facility.