International Space Station - Amateur Telescope 2002-03
Installation of Astro-Physics 1200GTO German Equatorial

Winer Observatory building near Sonoita, Arizona at an elevation of 5000 ft. The observatory has a large roll-off roof and contains a number of large robotic telescopes. It is in this observatory that the Astronomical League has placed their remote International Space Station - Amateur Telescope
(ISS-AT) project. Volunteers from Vanderbilt University's Dyer Observatory in Tennessee will control the mount remotely by computer

After removing the previous mounting, Walter Piorkowski of Astro-Physics is drilling and tapping holes in the pier to install the 1200GTO mount base plate.

The mount and scope are installed on the pier, ready for initial testing and cable placement. Note that the clutch knobs on the west side of the mount have been removed and replaced with set screws that lie flush with the surface of the mount. This allowed the Dec cable to slide easily over the axis in all orientations and there was no snagging of the wire anywhere. This photo shows the initial arrangement of the cables. Please see the photos below that show the final placement.

ISS-AT committee members Rocky Alvey, Orville Brettman, and Lance Martin check out the placement of the cables on the 1200GTO mount.

Checking out the system in all orientations to make sure that none of the cabling
interferes with any of the mounting parts.

Walter using CCDSoft to test the imaging setup.

It was interesting that during the T-Point run, Orville Brettmann discovered that the control functions in Software Bisque's TheSky software for our GTO mounts were not adequate to center the stars for a really accurate data set. Walter installed a copy of DigitalSky Voice and they were able to use the more advanced centering controls in that program to do the job quickly and accurately. Since Roland has not used T-Point extensively yet with TheSky, he's going to have to figure out the best way to use these programs. Having the keypad nearby for centering has been his preferred method until now, but this was not an option for their remote setup. We are now thinking of creating some neat new software for the computer for those situations where a keypad is not available. Stay tuned.

Close up of the equipment attached to the Celestron C-14, including the SBIG ST-9E camera with Color Filter Wheel, telecompressor, Optec TCF motorized focuser and a Kendrick Dew Remover.
All cabling was securely attached to the mounting plate before looping down to the pier. Attaching the wires securely to the plate prevents any kind of motion or disturbances to the camera during image aquisition and guiding. The loop is made long enough to allow the scope to reach all portions of the sky with plenty to spare. The guys ran the scope all over and reported zero interference.

Finished mount ready for a night of imaging under remote control.

Computer screen showing setup for T-Point runs. Stars were chosen from Software Bisque's TheSky planetarium software. The images were grabbed and displayed under a clear acetate overlay, which had a cross hair drawn on it. The stars were then precisely centered using DigitalSky Voice software (using the mouse to activate on-screen N-S-E-W buttons) and added to the mapping data. Walter had used only the polar scope to initially align the 1200GTO. No further polar alignment was done to the mount. After several mapping runs with T-Point, they were able to achieve 7.1 arc second pointing accuracy over the whole sky. Target objects all over the sky landed smack dead-center on the chip every time.
Walter "painted" the telescope with his red LED flashlight as it was operating under the
Arizona night sky. A beautiful ending to a job well done.

The ultimate goal of the ISS-AT project is to place an amateur telescope in space on the International Space Station, where amateurs will operate it to gather images for various astronomy projects. The goal of this phase is to develop the communication network to operate a telescope from 2000 miles away. This is the second year of operation. You can find out more information about this project at this website In the near future, the website will be updated with information regarding this new installation. We are proud to be a partner.

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This page was last modified: January 10, 2005

Astro-Physics, Inc.
11250 Forest Hills Road, Rockford, IL  61115, U.S.A.
Phone: 815-282-1513   Fax: 815-282-9847