Now that I know the astro rig works it's time to start cutting. The thing was made to hoist a telescope, which means it had space for counterweights, an extra axis, and of course was meant for the (relatively) hefty tripod that it came with. I lathed, chopped, and heli-coiled the poor bastard until it was just what I needed (and stronger at all the attachment points), and mounted it to a carbon fiber tripod:
Carbon fiber is a lovely material, very strong and stiff, but this not-too-expensive tripod sacrifices strength for weight. It's light, but not as light as it could be. It's strong, but not as strong as it could be. My plan? Tension it to the ground so that it gets the most out of the linear strength of the legs. First step was to remove two of the telescoping sections from each leg and then create a ground spike to keep the legs from spreading since I intend to put a pretty substantial amount of force to pull it to the ground:
The flats are lathed from 6061 aluminum and tightened in the same way the original legs were, so there is no issue swapping back to the stock configuration when I want to use this tripod for more...conventional things. All in all I cut about a pound out of the whole rig and it's come up stiffer and stronger than it was. Can't wait to see how solid it gets when it's properly anchored to the ground.
Not everyone is excited about this setup. The brother thinks I'm taking too much flexibility out of my tripod setup. I don't see this being an issue, but we'll see. I'd rather this and be able to take pictures of the things I want to than waste all my carrying capacity worrying about what I might get surprised by. Right now I think I need to chop about 5lbs out of what I think I'm bringing with me. Which is, ironically, slightly more than the entire astrophotography rig (without camera).