All ASKAP Antennas Assembled at the MRO

Antennas that make up CSIRO's ASKAP radio telescope, June 2012; nine of ASKAP's 36 antennas can be seen in this picture. Credit: Ross Forsyth, CSIRO.
Members of the CETC54 antenna construction team and CSIRO staff in front of the last of 36 antennas to be assembled for CSIRO's ASKAP radio telescope, June 2012. Credit: Barry Turner, CSIRO.
Fireworks to celebrate the assembly of all 36 of CSIRO's ASKAP radio telescope antennas, June 2012. Credit: Ross Forsyth, CSIRO.

18 June 2012

All 36 of CSIRO's Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) antennas have been assembled at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia.

The antennas have been constructed by their manufacturer, the 54th Research Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (known as CETC54) with the assistance of CSIRO's ASKAP team and local contractors.

CSIRO awarded the contract for the design and construction of ASKAP's 36 antennas to CETC54 in November 2008 after an international tendering process. The antennas were manufactured at CETC54's factory in Shijiazhuang, China. After passing factory acceptance tests, the antennas were then disassembled and transported to the MRO (approximately 350 km northeast of Geraldton), where they were then reassembled on site.

"The assembly of all 36 antennas is an important milestone in the construction of ASKAP," says Ant Schinckel, CSIRO's ASKAP Project Director. "I am immensely proud of the CETC54 and CSIRO teams, and the many local contractors who have assisted with the antenna assembly. The remote, arid conditions of the MRO—which make it a perfect location for a radio telescope—have also posed challenges that have been overcome through detailed design, planning and problem solving."

"We are now able to start fitting the antennas with the complex receiver and computing systems that will enable ASKAP to survey the sky faster than any other radio telescope. ASKAP will be one of the most advanced tools available for helping us to understand our Universe."

To celebrate this milestone, CSIRO hosted a special dinner for the CETC54 team at the MRO to mark the 'end of build'. Dinner, speeches and a professional fireworks display rounded off a happy event.

While all 36 ASKAP antennas have now been assembled at the MRO, finalisation of site acceptance testing for all the antennas is still due to take place over coming months.

Work to develop ASKAP's innovative phased array feed receivers (or 'radio cameras'), and complex signal processing and computing systems, has also continued. Essential infrastructure at the MRO, such as high-bandwidth optical fibre cable linking all the antennas to a new control building, is almost complete. ASKAP will be operational in 2013.

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