Collaboration is key for SKA pre-construction

Representatives from NRC, ASTRON and CSIRO with their PAF elements during testing. Credit: John Sarkissian, CSIRO.
During tests of the 5x4 CSIRO PAF elements.
Installation of the PAF elements, in preparation for testing.
Team members stand with the NRC Vivaldi PAF during tests.

29 May 2014

CSIRO has been working with representatives of the NRC (National Research Council, Canada) and ASTRON (Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy) to undertake a collaborative measurement program using three different receiver element designs as part of SKA pre-construction work.

The phased array feed (PAF) demonstrators are being tested at CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory, using the Parkes Testbed Facility.

The PAFs being tested are not full-sized arrays, but a representative array with which it is possible to emulate the performance of a full-size PAF.

The three arrays are:

The measurement program involves a comparative set of measurements of three different arrays using a common radio astronomy ‘back end’. This back end comprises the BETA prototype analogue signal processing, digitisation, beamformer and correlator located at the Parkes site.

According to Dish Consortium lead Mark McKinnon, the aim of this activity is to test arrays which use examples of the various element technologies currently being considered for use in the SKA-Survey telescope.

“This is the first time that any of the radio astronomy institutions involved in the SKA have worked together to test their individual PAFs in a common facility,” says Mark, “The tests will provide a useful performance benchmark, however they will not be the sole determining factor in element selection; it’s a great opportunity for collaboration.”

All three organisations are involved in various SKA consortia, announced by the SKA Organisation in 2013. This measurement program is a key collaborative exercise bringing together expertise from CSIRO and NRC for the Dish Consortium and ASTRON for LFAA and MFAA (the low- and mid-frequency aperture array consortia). Further analysis will continue, taking into account factors such as technology readiness, maintainability, manufacturability, and manufacturing cost.

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