Our role within the European Southern Observatory

Scope of the Group

The scope of the Instruments and Cryogenics System Group (M-ICS) is mechanical design, drafting and construction of telescope subsystems and astronomical instrumentation operating at wavelengths from ultraviolet to the mid-infrared (LPO, ELT) and further to the radio band of ALMA. It includes also cryogenic and vacuum systems, detector mechanics, precision mechanisms and structures for operating temperatures down to 3 Kelvin. The group provides expertise in opto-mechanical design, cryo-vacuum design, integration and verification to interdisciplinary projects within ESO or at our external partners. It runs the mechanical workshop at ESO HQ and operates laboratories for AIV of instruments, subsystems and cryo-vacuum systems. The provision of OTS mechanical and cryo-vacuum components, cryogenic coolants, equipment and facilities are integral parts, as well as ESO wide machining services and ongoing emergency support for LPO instruments.


The M-ICS group combines a broad expertise in mechanical engineering and related disciplines. The team is composed of experienced engineers and technicians offering a solid background in design, manufacturing, assembly, integration and verification (AIV) of opto-mechanical systems, instruments, subsystems and components. Group members are well-known for their hands-on skills and for their technological know-how. Core competencies in design, drafting and construction of opto-mechanical instruments and cryo-vacuum systems can be pointed out. Further to this the group provides conceptual design, detailed mechanical design, manufacturing drawings along with procurements of mechanical parts and OTS components. The group runs the mechanical workshop as a service to ESO, this includes machining capabilities, procurement and technical advice.

Experienced group members provide system engineering support to ESO projects. They define interfaces and take care of their control. Experts follow up instrument developments and upgrades from conceptual phase up to commissioning and maintenance at the observatories. They follow-up industrial contracts and provide expertise in instrument and subsystem review processes. In close collaboration with the Analysis group (M-STA) the design work is verified by finite element modeling for analyzing structural-mechanics and cryo-thermal properties. The cryo-thermal range of application covers the whole temperature range down to 3 Kelvin with a solid understanding of design and AIV of state-of-the-art cooling systems, instruments, subsystems, cryo-mechanisms and detector systems. There is a strong emphasis on evaluating and implementing forefront R&D technologies in cryogenics and related engineering disciplines. Group members define standards for opto-mechanical design, cryogenics, CAD and PDM systems, manufacturing processes including CAD/CAM technologies. An applicable product safety and assurance procedure is compulsory with product delivery. The group has a strong interest in supporting vibration mitigation technologies related to instruments and cryogenic systems, and in assessment of alternative cooling technologies and their implementation.

Heritage & Interfaces

Involvements in numerous 1st and 2nd generation LPO instrument projects, in all phases including instrument studies, design phase, construction, alignment, integration, commissioning, maintenance and upgrades. Involvements in E-ELT instrumentation. Cryogenic system design and construction. Machining with 3- and 5-axis technologies. The group can count on experienced system designers and laboratory staff.     

Interfaces: Project Manager (PMD), System Engineer (DoP, INSY), LPO engineering and instrumentation, all other Engineering Disciplines  of DOE, in particular the Optical Department for effective collaborations in horizontal lines of instrument integration activities mainly the assembly of mechanical and optical components along with alignment and verification procedures, and the Detector Group for fabrication of cryogenic detector systems