Parkes Testbed Facility
In 2008, CSIRO commissioned Patriot Antenna Systems to build a single, 12-metre diameter antenna at Parkes Observatory. Although the functional specification and design of the antenna differs from that of the actual ASKAP antennas, it provides a single dedicated platform to test successive generations of phased array feeds (PAFs) and other systems being developed for ASKAP.
The antenna is equipped with a feed rotator at the prime focus to allow the PAF to maintain a constant parallactic angle during observations. This 'de-rotation' of the sky means that the data stream from the PAF will be significantly easier to process in the imaging software.
The antenna pedestal will house an ASKAP-style beamformer. One of the challenges for ASKAP is to select a suitable ventilation system for the pedestal due to its high heat output (estimated to be about 5 kW). An underground fan-duct system has been installed to provide naturally-cooled forced air to the pedestal and determine if this type of system will be suitable for ASKAP in Western Australia.
The new antenna is located approximately 400 metres east of the 64-m Parkes 'dish' parallel to the east-west interferometer track, on a level area of land previously leased for farming. The antenna is controlled from a newly-refurbished RFI-shielded room in the Parkes 'Woolshed'.
A major milestone was reached on 24 July 2008 when the first prototype PAF was hoisted onto the antenna. On 29 July 2008 the ASKAP team captured signals from eight of the PAFs 40 ports and 'first light' was declared.
Opportunities for Industry
Information on opportunities for industry to be involved in the development of ASKAP can be found on the industry page.