Sitzler's eNews

September 2019

Sitzler successfully hands over Space Surveillance Telescope Facilities in Exmouth

Space Surveillance Telescope in Exmouth WA

In May 2019, Sitzler completed works as Managing Contractor for the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) in Exmouth Western Australia, seamlessly handing over the Facility to the Department of Defence.

This exciting and unique project was the first of its kind in Australia and involved the relocation of the SST which was initially deployed for testing in 2011 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The $97.2M state of the art facilities were constructed as part of stage two of the AIR 3029 Project and present a significant milestone for Australian and US Space Situational Awareness.

With construction commencing in October 2016, a total 191,000 hours of work went into the 20-month project. The success of this project was engendered through an enduring desire and motivation to seek exceptional quality results and being flexible and adaptable to the remote location and local industry capability. Being understanding and sympathetic to local contractors and the conditions experienced was important with such a unique, complex project in a very distinctive sensitive environment.

Space Surveillance Telescope in Exmouth WA

Sitzler Project Manager, Paul Gurr praised the work of the Sitzler team “The matrix of the ‘team’ was key to this success, with each individual contributing their own skillset and experience into the desired outcome, being sympathetic to each other’s ability to contribute aspects to the management of the project and allowing that to occur collectively. No individual stood out within the team, the team stood out as one whole entity of success”.

As expected of projects in remote locations, this was not without its challenges. The Exmouth region is the most cyclone prone area of Australia, experiencing severe weather events at least once every two years. This meant original designs of the facility had to be reassessed to ensure that the building could withstand wind gusts of up to 336km an hour. The team at Sitzler worked closely with the designers and US counterparts to ensure that these standards were met and that the functionality of the telescope would not be compromised.

Despite the complexity of the project, Sitzler worked collaboratively with National and International stakeholders throughout construction to achieve mutually recognised exceptional outcomes. The most significant of which was the ‘First Dome Rotation’ on the 31st March 2019. The SST achieved the first rotation of its 275 tonne Dome on target, without any misalignment or negative effects which had been experienced during the same milestone on previous telescopes facilities. The achievement of this was not simply pushing a button and watching it unfold; but rather exhaustive amounts of precision engineering, design, construction and assembly occurred right up to the event to ensure that it was failure free and exceeded expectations.

Another highlight of the project was the completion of the Main Facilities on the 15th May which was handed over in three days, some 2 days earlier than originally anticipated with stakeholders acknowledging it as one of the smoothest completions they had experienced to date.

With a strong focus on the local community of Exmouth, Sitzler insisted on engaging as many local suppliers and subcontractors as possible. In a town of approximately 1400 working people, Sitzler had inducted almost 400 locals on to site. “We support local any chance we get” said Sitzler Contractors Representative Jamie Porrovecchio. “It’s better for us, better for community and it safeguards the project. There are a lot of flow-down opportunities for sub-contractors and suppliers”.

Local Pebble Beach Constructions Manager, Phil Hall said of the project “The work at SST enabled us to not only keep our normal work force of 4 tradesman and 1 apprentice employed but to actually expand and average over the project 8 fulltime staff. This number increased in the last month or so of the project to average 13 workers onsite”. 

“Over the project we were able to give varied employment to 29 local individuals. This included some female workers and a second apprentice. This extra employment we were able to offer local people went along with the project providing our company with a good economic benefit for the effort we put in” Phil continued.

Space Surveillance Telescope in Exmouth WA
The new SST facility will play a vital role in the continual development and growth of the Australian Space Industry as up until now, there has been limited capability for surveillance and obtaining knowledge on space based threats, with Australia relying heavily on the United States. The completed facilities provide a full 360 degree view of space within its field of vision and will be used for the tracking and detection of satellites and space debris to manage threats, predict and avoid potential collisions, whilst strengthening Australia’s position as a key contributor to global space technologies. The successful completion of a project of such complexity, uniqueness and comprehensive technical scope is a credit to the Sitzler team and their ability to work collaboratively in a challenging and remote location to deliver outstanding results with a focus on quality and safety.