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W.M. Keck Observatory FM-200™ Case Study

World-class Facility Requires World-class Fire Protection

Scientists Trust FM-200™ to Protect Twin Telescopes

Credited with the first direct image of a planet outside of our solar system and the confirmation of hundreds since then, the W. M. Keck Observatory is a world-class facility. Located at the summit of Hawaii’s dormant Maunakea volcano, Keck Observatory hosts the two most powerful telescopes on the planet — capable of viewing 13 billion light-years away.

In addition to the telescopes, Keck Observatory includes two data processing centers and two control rooms. These areas contain computers and other electronic equipment dedicated to operating, maintaining and analyzing data from these telescopes, making these assets equally as important to protect from damage.

Understanding the Challenges

The observatory location — atop volcanic rock nearly 14,000-feet above sea level — offers an ideal vantage point for astronomers, but it significantly limits fire protection options. With no access to water lines on the island, not to mention the exorbitant cost of pumping water up 14,000-feet, the team quickly ruled out water-based technologies.

Due to the intricate electronic components throughout the observatory, and the fact that it is continually monitored and maintained by skilled personnel, the fire protection solution needed to be safe for people, electrically nonconductive, and noncorrosive. When the system deployed, no damage could be caused by the agent used to extinguish the fire. 

Calculating the Cost of Downtime

Keck Observatory needed a solution that could not only stop a fire, but quickly return operations to normal. Given the unparalleled capabilities of its telescopes, and the fact that many astronomical sights occur only once in a lifetime, maintaining constant operation is key. The potential loss of revenue and astronomical intelligence due to downtime from a fire would be immeasurable.

Finding a Trusted Solution: FM-200™

FM-200™ provides the optimal balance of safety, performance and cost to meet each of the Observatory’s needs. Since 1991 the Keck Observatory has trusted FM-200™ to protect its world-class facility because FM-200™ is safe for people, safe for the telescope and data processing equipment, less expensive as a chemical and total system, and allows for minimal business interruption in the event of a fire.