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Specs for roll off roof motor so that it can be automated by "The Sky" software?

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Top 50 Contributor
Posts 443
Ed33635 Posted: 07-31-2010 4:16 PM

I bought my Paramount ME mount and it's software "The Sky" several months ago but have not set it up yet as I had to build a "Roll off Roof" observatory for it first.  The observatory is now built and I plan to put on an electric motor in it that will open and close the roll off roof.  The general contractor (who knows nothing about astronomy) is going to work with his electricians (who also know nothing about astronomy) to design and install the motor. 
 
The question I have is : What do I need specifically in the motor and it's assembly (the specs) so that "The Sky" software can automate the opening and closing of the roof with the motor?  Thanks!

Top 10 Contributor
Posts 27,399
Software Bisque Employee

Here's my private response to your private email message:  

From a "high-level", TheSky6 Pro and AutomaDome for Windows can be used to control dome and or roll off roofs.

>>What do I need specifically in the motor and it's assembly so that "The Sky" software can automate the opening and closing of the roof with the motor? <<

In order for TheSky6 and AutomaDome to open/close the roof, you need:

  • A serial port (or single axis control system) that can be used to send/receive commands to/from motor and the PC.
  • An AutomaDome-compatible driver that can communicate with your motor's control system.

Here are some commercial roll off roof systems (I found by searching the web):

http://www.pier-tech.com/roll_off_roof_observatory_motor.htm

http://www.domeobservatory.com/roll_off_roof.html

 

http://m1oasys.com/

Daniel R. Bisque

Software Bisque, Inc.

862 Brickyard Circle

Golden, Colorado 80403-8058

Office Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday GMT-7:00

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Posts 443

Dan,

Thank you very much for the quick reply.  I will tell the builder that he needs to use a motor that has a serial port (or single axis control system) that can be used to send/receive commands to/from motor and the PC. 

As far as the AutomaDome compatible driver that communicates between the motor control system and the PC, wouldn't that driver come with the Automadome software?  I'm using a Windows operating system.  Thanks.

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Posts 3,094
Universal Subscription Licensee

Daniel, what if he builds his own homebrew roof drive system and would like to write a driver to interface with Software Bisque's software?  That would certainly be a very reasonable thing to want to do...

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Posts 27,399
Software Bisque Employee

Ed33635:
As far as the AutomaDome compatible driver that communicates between the motor control system and the PC, wouldn't that driver come with the Automadome software?
Not necessarily.  AutomaDome supports some dome control systems, but not all.  For a "generic motor" or "generic single axis control system", a custom dome driver would have to be written using the hardware's command protocol (using the DomeAPI, for example.)

Daniel R. Bisque

Software Bisque, Inc.

862 Brickyard Circle

Golden, Colorado 80403-8058

Office Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday GMT-7:00

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Top 10 Contributor
Posts 27,399
Software Bisque Employee

danco:
what if he builds his own homebrew roof drive system and would like to write a driver to interface with Software Bisque's software? 
Great!

Software Bisque offers the following Application Programming Interfaces for just this reason:

  • TeleAPI for custom telescope hardware
  • FocusAPI for custom focusers
  • FilterAPI for custom filter wheels
  • DomeAPI for custom dome hardware.
  • CameraAPI for custom cameras

Daniel R. Bisque

Software Bisque, Inc.

862 Brickyard Circle

Golden, Colorado 80403-8058

Office Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday GMT-7:00

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Top 150 Contributor
Posts 177

Daniel -

We at Wartburg actually *have* the pier-tech roll-off roof motor control system.  I've done a fair bit of programming here and there, but have no experience with ASCOM or the DomeAPI.  Can you give me any specific pointers on what I need to look for/do to interface the Pier-Tech system (which communicates via ASCOM, I believe) and TheSkyX's Dome plugin?

Charles Figura

Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Director, Wartburg-Platte Observatory

Top 500 Contributor
Posts 70

You might look at http://www.fostersystems.com/ for their hardware/software to control your roll off roof.  I automated my roof with their products.  This unit offer features for interlocking the system to park position, adding weather monitoring, controlling equipment power, etc.  This approach might be faster than using the Sky software control as you will still need the hardware interface.  Electricians can install the Foster Systems unit.

***

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Posts 27,399
Software Bisque Employee

wartburgobservatory:
but have no experience with ASCOM or the DomeAPI. 
The ASCOM site offers an AutomaDome ASCOM Dome (DomeAPI) Plug In so that TheSkyX Pro's Dome Add On, or AutomaDome for Windows can be used to control the hardware. 

Daniel R. Bisque

Software Bisque, Inc.

862 Brickyard Circle

Golden, Colorado 80403-8058

Office Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday GMT-7:00

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Posts 4,056
Software Bisque Employee

Daniel R. Bisque:

In order for TheSky6 and AutomaDome to open/close the roof, you need:

  • A serial port (or single axis control system) that can be used to send/receive commands to/from motor and the PC.
  • An AutomaDome-compatible driver that can communicate with your motor's control system.

Ed33653

Some additional comments:

A *serial port* isn't absolutely *required*, it is the most common for the industry.  The Software Bisque driver interfaces are not port specific, you could use any IO port to communicate with your dome hardware and TheSky. 

Big picture, from a driver standpoint, if you want to target TheSky6, use the DomeAPI.  If you want to target the new TheSkyX use the x2 dome driver interface (which has a small footprint and least dependencies, and is cross-platform).

Matthew Bisque

Software Bisque, Inc.

862 Brickyard Circle

Golden, Colorado 80403-8058

Top 150 Contributor
Posts 177

To be clear: the Pier-Tech roof controller that we use *has* a fully functional software interface that shows roof position (open/closed/in motion), and interlock status (telescope parked).  Since TheSkyX has the built-in dome control, it would certainly be convenient to be able to control that from within the same program.  (I'd love to be able to control my Kendrick heaters from within that, too, if I had my druthers!)

I got a separate note from the Pier-Tech guys that say they're working on a plugin to TheSkyX, and that I should check back in a few weeks/months. If the x2 dome driver interface is a good direction to investigate, I'll look into that, too.

 

Charles Figura

Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Director, Wartburg-Platte Observatory

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Posts 4

Hi Charles:

 

That is correct. We are busy and very close to getting the Sky 6 and Sky X to integrate with our new Dome controller. After we complete that, we will start on getting our roll off roof controller to integrate with the Sky6/Sky X.

 

 

Vito

Pier-Tech Inc. 

Not Ranked
Posts 3

Hi Daniel/Vito,

This is an old string, but just checking in to see if Pier Tech was successful in integrating Telestation (6) roof control into TheSkyX?  I don't see Pier Tech listed in the TheSkyX user manual as a compatible manufacturer under the Dome Add-On section, but maybe it hasn't been updated.

Also, can control of the Pier Tech 3 telescoping pier be integrated into TheSkyX as well (ie. Up/Down)?

Many thanks for your help,

-John

Top 150 Contributor
Posts 177

Aloha, John!  I got mine working for a while using the ASCOM plugin.  This worked reasonably well, except that only the "Observatory Open" and "observatory close" commands are implemented.  The "raise pier" and "lower pier" are activated automatically after roof open and before roof close.  For me, that's a problem as my Pier Tech controller only controls a roof, I don't have the moving pier, and had to rig a circuit to spoof the pier controller.

Nevertheless, it worked!

 

 

Charles Figura

Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Director, Wartburg-Platte Observatory

Top 10 Contributor
Posts 3,761
Software Bisque Employee

Out-of-the-box, the Dome Add On for TheSkyX Professional Edition provides support of dome controllers compatible with the ACL Dome protocol, Software Bisque's DomeAPI, and our (retired) AutomaDome software. On Windows, the Dome Add On additionally supports ASCOM-compatible dome controllers. Other dome controller types are supported via third-party X2 plug-ins, such as those offered here by Rodolphe Pineau.

Pier-Tech indicate that their dome and roll-off-roof automation system is ASCOM-compatible, which, by nature of ASCOM, is limited to Windows use. Based on this, TheSkyX Professional Edition for Windows, with the Dome Add On, should be able to operate Pier-Tech domes and roll-off-roofs, including the Tele-Station 6.

I'm unaware of any means within TheSkyX of controlling a telescoping pier.

Brian S. Rickard
Software Bisque, Inc.

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