• Two Maunakea telescopes to begin dismantling process

    August 11, 2023
    By MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Friday, August 11, 2023, 12:05 a.m.

    The decommissioning of a pair of Maunakea observatories is imminent.
    During a Thursday meeting of the Board of the Maunakea Stewardship and Oversight Authority, Greg Chun, director of the University of Hawaii’s Center for Maunakea Stewardship, said work to remove the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory will begin within a few weeks, and the dismantling of the University of Hawaii’s teaching observatory Hoku Kea will begin in a few months.
    The two telescopes are the first of five observatories slated to be removed in exchange for the eventual planned construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea. Hoku Kea has not been usable since 2010, when the observatory’s 36-inch telescope was found to be faulty. CSO ceased operations in 2015.
    Chun said Caltech has provided a new timeline for the removal of CSO, and that initial steps to remove the observatory will begin next week.
    Those steps will be limited to moving equipment such as a forklift up the mountain in preparation for future work, Chun said.
    “No work is actually scheduled to occur (next week), just the delivery of that equipment,” Chun said.
    The following week, Chun said, a crane and lift will be moved to the summit, which he said eventually will be used to remove the telescope itself.
    Originally, Caltech planned to remove the observatory’s 34-foot primary mirror without disassembling it, which would require several road closures over a multiday process, but the plan changed in June to allow for the mirror to be broken down into four pieces small enough to fit into standard 40-foot-long shipping containers.
    The actual extraction of the telescope from the observatory is expected to begin the week of Aug. 28, weather permitting, Chun said. That process is projected to take about three weeks, and should be completed by the week of Sept. 18.
    Following that, Chun said the site will be turned over to contractor Goodfellow Bros. to carry out interior demolition of the observatory, followed by the removal of the structure itself.
    After the structure is removed, there will be a three-year monitoring period during which Caltech will ensure the site is restored to its natural state. The whole project is estimated to cost about $4 million.
    Further details about the CSO removal project are expected next week, and Chun said Caltech will provide continual updates as work proceeds.
    Meanwhile, Chun said a bid package for contractors seeking to work on the Hoku Kea demolition should be complete in a few months.
    Once a contractor is chosen, work could begin immediately, although he added that the approach of winter could cause further delays.
    Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.