ALMA AOS Facility and Site

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project is an internationally-owned research instrument comprised of (66) 12 meter antennas, 5,000 meters above sea level. M3’s scope of work included the design of the 10km antenna array roads, electrical and fiber optic distribution network to 192 antenna pads as well as an 18,000 square foot Technical Support Building. ALMA, being an international project, is designed to accommodate the different deliverable antenna designs and equipment from different countries.

The technical building houses all of the antenna array correlator equipment and patch panels. The building is designed to reject the entire heat load from the equipment with an economically designed air conditioning system that takes advantage of the lower temperatures of this site. An oxygen enrichment system designed to accommodate the office area can also be switched to service the equipment area during the commissioning phase.

As is the case with many other observatories, this project is on an active seismic zone with high winds and extreme temperatures. The design of the antenna foundations and the Technical Support Building focuses not only on how to structurally and architecturally meet the requirements but how to construct on a high altitude, remote site cost effectively. Material selection, preassembly of components and a well thought out thermal building envelope with a sophisticated energy management system minimizes on-site construction and long term operational costs.