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Portuguese companies win contracts to build world's most advanced optical telescope

It has already been called "the world's largest sky-viewing eye". In fact, the E-ELT ( European Extremeley Large Telescope) telescope will have a main mirror 39 meters in diameter and will be able to collect 13 times more radiation than existing optical telescopes. The E-ELT will also be able to correct for the effects of atmospheric distortion, and produce images 16 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope. The E-ELT will take nine years to become operational, with first observations expected in 2024. Construction of this ambitious telescope will begin in 2016, and at Call launched by the ESO for Phase 1, two Portuguese entities stood out among international competitors to secure contracts worth an accumulated 1.5 million euros.

A CRITICAL Software, a software solutions development company, and ISQ, a private entity that provides inspection, testing, engineering, training and technical consulting services, have just signed contracts with ESO for 3 years, with an option to extend up to 9 and 10 years, respectively.

CRITICAL Software's proposal beat 12 others, submitted by companies from the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and Chile. The ISQ proposal was the top ranked among five evaluated, submitted by peer organizations from Spain and Germany.

With this contract, CRITICAL Software will ensure independent software validation and verification (ISV&V) services for the E-ELT program. The tasks foreseen include the analysis of software requirements of the telescope control systems and the preparation and execution of manual and automated tests, among others. ISQ will ensure the verification of materials, parts and final products through audits, surveillance, independent tests and inspections, in order to support the ESO in Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) of the construction and assembly, with the manufacturers of the most critical structures and systems.

The activities of both will take place during the assembly, integration and verification phases, in several European countries, in Brazil and at the E-ELT construction site on Cerro Amazones, a mountain about 3,060 meters high in the Atacama desert plateau in Chile. With this powerful "eye", the international astronomical community will be able to study the greatest scientific challenges of our time - the search for extrasolar Earth-like planets, measuring the properties of the first stars and galaxies, and the nature of matter and dark energy.

According to Pedro Carneiro, vice president of FCT, the entity that represents Portugal in the ESO Council, "The success of CRITICAL Software and ISQ demonstrates the international competitiveness of our industry and the close monitoring of the Portuguese delegation in ESO."

"This is excellent news for ESO, for Portugal and for FCT, ISQ and CRITICAL Software. ESO will benefit from the experience, professionalism and dynamism of two entities that have stood out internationally in sectors traditionally dominated by companies from more developed countries in terms of technological and organizational capacity", says Paulo Chaves, Business Leader at ISQ.

For Paulo Guedes, Business Development Director of CRITICAL Software, "We are very pleased to have been selected to build the world's most advanced optical telescope together with ISQ. This is an unequivocal international recognition of the quality of the work of both ISQ and CRITICAL Software, which over the years has excelled in extremely demanding areas and markets."