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OLFAR at International Astronautical Congress

Submitter: David Smith
Description: Every year, the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), together with the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), holds the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). This year it was held in Naples over the period 1 to 5 October, hosted by the Italian member of the IAF.

ASTRON, along with her partners of TU Delft, University of Twente, AEMICS, AXIOM IC, Dutch Space, SystematIC, ISIS and Texas Instruments has been manning a booth to promote their various research projects, including Orbiting Low Frequency Antennas for Radio Astronomy (OLFAR). Two employees of ASTRON took part in this, namely Mark Bentum and David Smith. Their contribution to the OLFAR project centres around the calibration and imaging systems.

Radio observations at frequencies in the range of 0.3 to 30 MHz are of considerable scientific interest. The key scientific drivers include the study of the dark ages and the epoch of re-ionisation (EoR), and the mapping of a tomographic view of the interstellar medium. However, the earth-based detection of astronomical radio waves at these frequencies is severely hampered by the ionosphere and by Radio Frequency Interference (RFI). Hence, the range below 30 MHz is one of the last unexplored frequency ranges in astronomy.

The OLFAR project is a feasibility study for a low-frequency radio telescope in space. The OLFAR array will consist of a swarm of more than ten scalable and autonomous "nano" satellites. These will be spread over a virtual sphere with a diameter of 100 km, emulating a large radio dish. Each satellite observes the radio sky and communicates the data to all the others, for distributed correlation.

The image shows a 3D Simulation of a single OLFAR satellite, plying its lazy trade somewhere in the vicinity of the Moon. The six antenna form three mutually perpendicular dipoles, which together cover the entire sky in both polarizations.
Copyright: Mark Bentum, Alex Budianu, Steven Engelen, Raj Thilak Rajan, David Smith and Teo Willink Castro
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