Hanover/Stuttgart, February 2008. The air suspension system from ContiTech turned in an outstanding performance in the first test flight of the SOFIA research airplane with its activated telescope. The air suspension system has a key role to play in the proper functioning of the observatory telescope. By ensuring vibration-free operating conditions, it enables the telescope to obtain perfect pictures from the stratosphere.
At an altitude of fourteen kilometers, the SOFIA project carries out research into the formation of stars and planetary systems as well as the origin of the solar system. At the heart of the research aircraft is a 17-tonne telescope that peers out at the universe through a hatch in the tail of the plane. The world's largest infrared telescope, it has an extremely high spatial resolution. The telescope rests on a vibration-isolation system (VIS) consisting of an air spring system and silicon-oil-filled dampers.
In the five-and-a-half-hour test flight, the telescope, with all its subsystems, was tested for the first time under regular operating conditions. The air suspension system from ContiTech completed the test with flying colors. It demonstrated its ability to absorb vibrational interference emanating from the aircraft itself or from windflow when the hatch is open. Assisted by its control electronics and sensors, the air suspension system holds the telescope exactly in position relative to the plane's fuselage. This ensures that the ultra-sensitive instrument is always aimed directly at the target of observation, the prerequisite for perfect images. The German SOFIA Institute (DSI) in Stuttgart reported that the vibration-isolation system "performed excellently when the plane was diving, climbing and spiraling".
ContiTech Air Spring Systems in Hanover manufactures the existing system, composed of 24 single- and double-convolution air springs. ContiTech's sales partner, CFM Schiller GmbH, from Roetgen in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, assumed full engineering responsibility, from design calculations through to final assembly at the American NASA base.
ContiTech Air Spring Systems is the largest manufacturer of air suspension systems in Europe and number two worldwide. The company's products equip primarily commercial vehicles, buses, cars, rail vehicles and machines and systems.