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A timely inspection of Aussie icon ‘The Dish’

By almost any measure, the Parkes Radio Telescope is the most successful scientific instrument ever built in Australia*. CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) wanted to gain insights into what strategies might be employed to ensure that this national asset can remain operationally reliable into the future.

To that end, ATNF invited Advitech to conduct an inspection of this iconic piece of equipment and provide a report on initial findings to inform a detailed maintenance plan.

Launching Australia into the world of ‘big science’, the telescope was designed in England by Freeman Fox & Partners, and built by the German firm MAN. Since commissioning in 1961, it has been a vital tool for astronomers, both national and international.

The 2000 Australian film ‘The Dish’, telling the story of the telescope’s role in relaying live television of humanity’s first steps on the Moon, cemented its iconic status.

The telescope is now over 60 years old, and the original planners and builders could not have envisaged that it would have such an extraordinarily long and productive future. With its anticipated critical supporting role in upcoming space missions, the telescope must be kept in peak condition.

Advitech’s expertise in structural and mechanical inspections has been called upon for the important task of providing advice on maintenance for reliable operation. Failure of the supporting structure or mechanical components could prove detrimental to future projects, including astronomical research and tracking objects such as spacecraft.

Although more accustomed to assessing and designing structures such as bridges and cranes and working on machines like mine winders and conveyers, the Advitech team is applying its expertise to the telescope’s supporting structures and movement mechanisms.

Following the initial inspection of the telescope in March 2023, Advitech will continue to assist CSIRO with scoping of the project and will provide recommendations for maintenance to ensure that this globally significant asset remains up to its task well into the future.

* Source: Robertson, Peter: An Australian icon – planning and construction of the Parkes Telescope, Science with Parkes @ 50 Years Young, 31 Oct. – 4 Nov., 2011