To the edge of the universe and back – WeAre in action building the ngVLA

28. October 2021

Berlin, 23/06/2021 – The Next Generation Very Large Array (ngVLA) of the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is the largest astronomy project in the Northern Hemisphere. In this project, renowned radio astronomers explore fundamental questions such as where did we come from or the origin of the universe. Also they receive data all the way to the edge of the universe.

The original telescope observatory – Very Large Array (VLA) – started in New Mexico more than 40 years ago. Now the project is getting a fresh-up with a new generation of telescopes, which are much more powerful. For this purpose, 28x25m older telescopes will be decommissioned and replaced by the new generation. The new telescopes will have a reflector diameter of 18 meters high and in total, 244 of them are planned.

In May 2021, the design of the Wiesbaden-based company mtex antenna technology gmbh was commissioned to develop the design and to build a first prototype. This is when the tech start-up WeAre GmbH comes into play. The Berlin-based company develops a VR conferencing system with which large and complex machines as well as plants can be walked through, discussed and revised in virtual reality.

“Due to the current pandemic and the associated travel restrictions, we needed a tool for implementing the project that allows us to exchange information virtually across oceans with the NRAO at any time. With the VR software from WeAre, we found a tool to exchange information directly on the virtual object with all the experts who are involved in the project. But even after the pandemic, such a software is an incredible added value, as it saves an enormous amount of time and reduces business trips to a necessary minimum,” comments Lutz Stenvers, CEO of mtex antenna technology GmbH.

“We are very excited that we – as a young tech start-up – have developed a solution that is the answer to numerous challenges in the development and construction of such a complex project as the ngVLA. We appreciate the trust that mtex and NRAO have placed in us and our software. We look forward to a successful collaboration on this incredibly exciting project,” said Max Noelle, CEO and founder of WeAre.

In this project, mtex antenna technology uses WeAre for interface coordination with the NRAO, safety hazard analysis and optimization, resp. planning of telescope maintenance. During the walk-throughs in the virtual reality, the customer equipment and current data can be loaded directly into the VR, so that the 3D models in the virtual meeting are always up to date with the latest development status.

“A clear exchange in virtual reality is essential for the success of the project. The Americans have completely different standards and specifications for construction, therefore detailed virtual coordination is absolutely essential even before the actual construction,” continues Stenvers.

By using WeAre, mtex expects to save costs and time. Potential error sources can be identified in VR before the actual construction begins. In addition, faster and more efficient arrangements shorten development time and eliminate the need for complex paper analyses. Last but not least, the use of WeAre’s VR software is also a question of sustainability. Normally, such an international project needs regular face-to-face meetings which are correspondingly associated with business trips. This is a complicated and time-consuming procedure, not only in times of pandemics.

WeAre’s business model is based on a user-based SaaS licensing model. User licenses are available as 12-, 24- and 36-month models. Potential customers have the opportunity to get to know all the software’s functionalities during an online demo.

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