Key Features

  • Industrial control system for demanding applications
  • Programmable azimuth drive speeds with smooth acceleration
  • Intelligent handling of dropout door
  • Synchronized simultaneous motion of both doors
  • Linux-based embedded controller with redundant failsafes
  • ASCOM compliant with very intuitive interface
  • Communication by TCP/IP or serial port
  • Factory installation by Observa-Dome
    • Field installation on pre-existing domes by ACE

ACE SmartDome controller for Observa Dome enclosures

The ACE SmartDome  is a fault-tolerant controller that allows an Observa-Dome Laboratories product to be controlled locally, remotely and robotically.

It works with any ASCOM compliant software such as DC3 Dream’s ACP or TheSkyX or MaxIm-DL.

For professional clients wishing to integrate a dome controller directly into their software there is a comprehensive command library. Communication with the ACE SmartDome is through TCP/IP. An option to use a serial communications port is available.

We now describe the system in detail.

 

Full Description

The ACE SmartDome is designed for use in a professional observatory or public outreach facility where an industrial ruggedized control system is essential. Models are available for both 115 VAC and 240 VAC power options.

The system can be divided into two parts, those that are static (mounted on the wall of the observatory) and those that are dynamic, mounted on the moving part of the dome.

A set of (orange-colored) electric conductor bars (sometimes called slip rings) provide power to the rotating parts of the dome.  If you have an older Observa-Dome these rings may be absent. ACE can retrofit these as part of the SmartDome installation. If you are ordering a new Observa-Dome the ACE SmartDome will be installed at the factory.

The static components are:

  • Main control box with LCD display
  • Azimuth drive control box
  • Azimuth rotation motor(s)
  • Azimuth encoder
  • External weather station and cloud sensor

The dynamic components are:

  • Upper control box
  • Shutter motor
  • Limit and home switches
  • Rain-snow sensor

The main control box and the upper control box communicate by a 2.4 GHz frequency hopping radio.  For radio-quite observatories we establish communication by installing three additional slip rings.

 

The main box has an LCD display which reports the current system status including the state of the shutter doors and the azimuth of the dome.  It contains useful diagnostics for an on-site observer.  However, the system is primarily designed for remote and autonomous robotic observing.

The on-site operator can control the dome using a series of push buttons.

The EMERGENCY STOP button halts all dome motion. (There is also a contact block to allow a signal to control the telescope emergency stop system).  This is a latching mushroom button.  Twist and release to restore functionality.

The OPEN and CLOSE push buttons control the main shutter door.

The FORWARD and REVERSE buttons rotate the dome in the positive and negative azimuth (where North is 0 degrees and East is 90 degrees).

The main box has an LCD display which reports the current system status including the state of the two doors and the azimuth of the dome.  It contains useful diagnostics for an on-site observer.  However, the system is primarily designed for remote and autonomous robotic observing.

The on-site operator can control the dome using a series of push buttons.

The EMERGENCY STOP button halts all dome motion. (There is also a contact block to allow a signal to control the telescope emergency stop system).  This is a latching mushroom button.  Twist and release to restore functionality.

The OPEN and CLOSE push buttons control the main shutter door.

The FORWARD and REVERSE buttons rotate the dome in the positive and negative azimuth (where North is 0 degrees and East is 90 degrees).

The upper box is similar to the main box except that there is no LCD display and there is no control for azimuth. 

The upper box is a self-contained system capable of intelligent closure of the main shutter doors. In the event of a communications failure between the two boxes, or in the event of bad weather the dome will automatically close to protect the telescope.