FESV is a custom designed truck packed with the equipment required to transport and service ALMA’s temperature-sensitive astronomical equipment without removing a telescope from the working array at 16,500 feet.
The FESV is based on the familiar Volvo FH 6×4 chassis: It is 36 feet long, 8 feet wide, and weighs 26 tons. The truck’s built-in scissor lift is designed to push its cargo cabin 20 feet straight up to align with the receiver cabin of a telescope, similar to catering trucks that align with airplane doors, allowing personnel inside to replenish provisions directly at the airport gate.
The truck enables personnel to service million-dollar, state-of-the art hardware at one of the harshest locations on Earth, the Chajnantor Plain in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Working at an elevation of 16,500 feet, the FESVs will be at altitudes higher than even small aircraft can fly. To function in this extreme location, the FESV has insulated walls and a 440 HP turbo diesel engine.
Two FESVs were commissioned by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, with the help of one of their partners in ALMA, the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics. They were built by CoTech in association with Ke Chong Industries in Taiwan. The FEHV was designed and is currently being fabricated (respectively) by Chilean firms Prolaser Ltda. and Walper y Cía. Ltda.