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Full end-to-end tests underway with Mk II PAF

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24 April 2014

The development of a second generation (Mk II) receiver and data processing chain for ASKAP has been underway since August 2011 through a work package known as ASKAP Design Enhancement (ADE).

The ADE program is focused on design optimisation of the ASKAP chequerboard phased array feed (PAF) receiver to improve performance and cost efficiency, and enhance manufacturability and testability. Tests on a proof-of-concept 40-element PAF late last year confirmed that these improvements through ADE have resulted in a design that will meet all the science requirements.

Recently, the ASKAP team achieved results from a successful end-to-end test on the prototype Mk II PAF during tests onsite at the Sydney headquarters of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science. The full-size prototyope PAF system was set up in a RF-shielded room, with the digital backend in a second room 600m away.

This system, equivalent to one ASKAP antenna's worth of RF, optical, and digital electronics, allows the team to test the monitoring, control, and basic function of the RF to digital pathways. During the tests, all 188 signals from the PAF were successfully transported via optical fibre to the beamformer.

Early tests on prototype systems (whether at the CASS labs in Sydney or onsite at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory) are essential in establishing the modifications and shielding required for the system.

For the ADE team, this is a great step along the way to preparing the Mk II PAF for onsite tests at the MRO in Western Australia. Following furhter tests in the Sydney labs, the Mk II PAF will be equipped with site-ready thermoelectric coolers, power supplies, and a specialised casing.

In parallel, the team is currently preparing mechanical, cabling, and power system items for installation and testing at the MRO, which is expected to progress over coming months.

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