Rockford company building giant telescope, as tall as the Space Shuttle

Made in the Stateline

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — When companies plan for the future, they tend to look at the big picture. It doesn’t get much more “big picture” than Ingersoll Machine Tools’ latest project.

Scientists from all over the planet will benefit from something made in the stateline.

“For Ingersoll Machine Tools to take part in this great scientific achievement is something very special,” said CEO Chip Storie. “It fits in perfectly with our business model. We build large, complex systems and this is definitely going to be a large complex system.”

The Giant Magellan Telescope won’t be finished for a few years, will weigh more than 2,000 tons, and will stand as tall as the Space Shuttle.

“[The telescope is made of] seven mirrors that are interjoined, that will be 80 feet in diameter, so it’s quite an accomplishment,” said Storie.

Except for those mirrors, Ingersoll is building the entire telescope, including the mount.

It isn’t the company’s first attempt at the world of astronomy.

“We just finished installing a telescope in Hawaii last year,” Storie said. “So, based on that experience and the success of that particular telescope, we got involved with the GMTO organization, to talk to them about building this one.”

It’s also not the company’s only high tech effort which has been handled here in Rockford.

“We built the modules for the Orion spacecraft. We just set a world record with our Master Print, the world’s largest 3D printer,” Storie says, proudly. “And now, launching into this telescope project, we’re always looking for projects that are technologically challenging, things that very few other people in the world can even think about doing.”

Ingersoll’s entire 200-person staff will have a hand in the project at some point in the process, but the job is so big, other local companies will be involved, too.

“We’ve got a lot of parts that will need to be made, that we won’t have the capacity to do, so we’re reaching out to many of the manufacturing shops in the area, to assist us,” Storie said.

It helps that Rockford is “a hotbed for aerospace,” Storie says. That influence will soon reach beyond our galaxy.

“To be able to see into deep space, and see the things that have never been seen before and know that we were a part of that, is something that we’re really proud of,” he said.

Intersoll Machine Tools will build the Magellan telescope in stages. When it’s finished in 2025, workers will travel to Chile to help with the installation.

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