Analysis of spatio-temporal ambient temperatures on the thermal behaviour of the Lunar Laser Ranging optical telescope at Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory

Philemon Lehlohonolo Tsela, Ludwig Combrinck, Bongani Ngcobo


Development of the 1-meter aperture Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) telescope is underway at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) which is expected to achieve sub-centimeter range precision and accuracy to the Moon, for enhanced tests of Earth-Moon system dynamics. Key to the operational performance of the telescope is thermal analysis of the telescope composite structure including the optical mirrors. This study presents a thermal analysis on the integrated component materials comprising the LLR telescope in ANSYS, with the aim of simulating its thermal behaviour in response to site-based ambient air temperature (TA). Results show that for a full day TA profile spanning the time period 00:00 to 23:59 the resulting range of simulated thermal variations measured at 12:00 midday and 23:59 nighttime across the telescope composite structure was found to be 9.11 ºC to 10.03 ºC and 9.12 ºC to 9.86 ºC respectively. In particular, the spider assembly and outer tube surface had the largest range of thermal variations i.e. greater than absolute 1 ºC and thus, could be the main areas on the telescope where most thermal variations would occur. Furthermore, validation of the outer tube thermal variations using the 64 Resistant Temperature Detector (RTD) sensors mounted onto the test tube, showed relatable overall thermal variations of about 2 ºC,  at wind speeds of 0 to 0.4 km/h. In overall, these findings provide a typical expectation of the LLR telescope thermal behavior in response to TA at the site; and thus could be used as a guide to develop an RTD-based thermal monitoring system for the HartRAO LLR optical telescope.


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