In the lead

Transporting sensitive goods is a real challenge, even on level ground. Hauling a telescope onto a mountain peak requires the greatest delicacy.

This is what just happened in the Magdalena Mountains in the US state of New Mexico, where the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO) sits at an elevation of 3,200 m. A symbol of science and research, the Observatory casts its gaze to the stars and the cosmos. But to do this, it requires cutting-edge optical technology.

This includes, for example, a 2.4 m telescope capable of viewing celestial objects many thousands of kilometres away. Such a 36-ton piece of equipment, packed with high technology, had to be moved to the top of the mountain.

Difficult ground for delicate load

“The steep, unpaved tracks and remote location made this project extremely dangerous”, say the clients at the MRO about the job. It required a great deal of experience and special equipment in order to move the sensitive load safely and efficiently. The North American specialists from the Alternative Movement Division (AMD), part of the MLHC Crane Group, received the contract. During the planning phase, it quickly became apparent that the last 500 metres to the final destination would be particularly treacherous.

To conquer this last stretch, AMD relied on its Faymonville self-propelled PowerMAX APMC with 4 axle lines and power pack (PPU). “Thanks to the combination of the hydraulic axle compensation and 60-degree steering angle, the PowerMAX APMC was able to keep the telescope within an inclination of five degrees.

This was consistent with the specific instructions of the manufacturer”, says Jeremy Aslaksen, Sales & Marketing Coordinator at AMD, as he explains the requirements.

Strolling to the top

Dangling from the hook of a 100-ton Terex off-road crane, the semi-circular load descended with precision onto the waiting self-propelled trailer. A special mounting device was installed on the PowerMAX APMC. This provided the necessary stability, so the telescope would be ready to tackle the final stretch.

During the final assent to the summit, the vehicle moved at a walking pace over unpaved terrain. Thanks to the enormous pulling force exerted by each of the drive shafts, the self-propelled tractor worked its way up the mountain.

At last, the telescope reached its final destination atop a foundation that had already been prepared for it. For the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO), this was a milestone. The hope is that this new device will provide new astronomical insights and bring the heavens just a bit closer to Earth.

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Self-propelled modular trailer by Faymonville to move a telescope in the US
Self-propelled modular trailer APMC by Faymonville to move a telescope