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Look to the stars with the University of Oxford

The Department of Physics at the University of Oxford is part of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

SKA is an ambitious, global radio telescope project. SKA will investigate questions about our universe. The array’s design will enable it to survey the sky up to ten thousand times faster than existing arrays.

Within a safety-critical state machine: Feed Package Controller

The Department of Physics has led the hardware and software design for the cryogenic Band 345 Single Pixel Feed (SPF) receiver. This consists of feed horns, OMTs (orthomode transducers) and RF (radio frequency) chain components maintained at cryogenic temperatures (12K and 70K) under vacuum by a Gifford McMahon coldhead.

These components are housed in a cryostat which is monitored and controlled by an attached Feed Package Controller (FPC) module. The FPC consists of a Xilinx System-on-Chip with ADCs (analogue-to-digital converters) and DACs (digital-to-analogue converters) to monitor and control critical temperatures and pressures and control safety critical components such as the main vacuum valve.

In addition, the coldhead motor’s speed can be controlled to match the cryogenic cooling power required to the ambient heat load.

Should the temperature or pressure change too much, it will damage the module. Damage to this is expensive to fix. The array’s intended (remote) locations mean sending someone to make repairs is no easy task.

Look to the skies

Bluefruit is continuing to work with The Department of Physics at the University of Oxford to ensure they have the software they need. We’re excited to see what comes from one of the most significant scientific projects of our time.

Are you as fascinated by SKA as we are?

Then check out these resources:

How Square Kilometre Array will unlock the secrets of the universe


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