RFEL's technology applied in Square Kilometre Array radio astronomy project

October 09, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
The University of Oxford, a member of the Low Frequency Aperture Array (LFAA) consortium, working together with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation to build the world's largest radio telescope, has signed the second phase of a study contract with RFEL.

This new contract focuses on the design of an FPGA-based signal processing architecture for beam forming functions in the antenna processing hardware.

The first phase of the study concentrated on designing a maximum performance, minimum complexity, channeliser for subdividing the radio spectrum: a capability as important as producing colour images from an optical telescope. RFEL is now investigating whether its beam forming IP, used to image distance sources, can be combined with the channeliser to further boost performance and minimise resource usage. The study is critical because the telescope is projected to have 250,000 antennae and the anticipated processing resources and power budget required is a limiting factor for practical deployment. However, it is vital that these optimisations do not result in a loss of gain, or the introduction of processing artefacts that could be misinterpreted as real signals. RFEL has a decade of experience in validating their channeliser IP to ensure functionally correct operation and therefore is suitably qualified to produce the very best possible solution.

RFEL is also considering using its ChannelCore Flex architecture, with its flexibility to arbitrarily define the centre frequency, bandwidth and sample rate of potentially thousands of independent radio channels to ensure that all available processing resources and data bandwidth are used to maximum effect.

Next; processing in FPGA...