Design, testing, and installation of a high-precision hexapod for the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX)
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Engineers from The University of Texas at Austin Center for Electromechanics and McDonald Observatory have designed, built, and laboratory tested a high payload capacity, precision hexapod for use on the Hobby-Eberly telescope as part of the HETDEX Wide Field Upgrade (WFU). The hexapod supports the 4200 kg payload which includes the wide field corrector, support structure, and other optical/electronic components. This paper provides a recap of the hexapod actuator mechanical and electrical design including a discussion on the methods used to help determine the actuator travel to prevent the hexapod payload from hitting any adjacent, stationary hardware. The paper describes in detail the tooling and methods used to assemble the full hexapod, including many of the structures and components which are supported on the upper hexapod frame. Additionally, details are provided on the installation of the hexapod onto the new tracker bridge, including design decisions that were made to accommodate the lift capacity of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope dome crane. Laboratory testing results will be presented verifying that the performance goals for the hexapod, including positioning, actuator travel, and speeds have all been achieved. This paper may be of interest to mechanical and electrical engineers responsible for the design and operations of precision hardware on large, ground based telescopes. In summary, the hexapod development cycle from the initial hexapod actuator performance requirements and design, to the deployment and testing on the newly designed HET tracker system is all discussed, including lessons learned through the process.