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SKA MFFA (mechanical) prototypes at the WSRT

Submitter: Marco Drost
Description: One may (mechanically) design an instrument with great care and still there are many aspects that are difficult to predict. Things like dust, dirt, vegetation, water, bugs, rodents and soil variations. The success or even failure of the design may depend on them. Field prototypes are the answer. They will experience all these aspects and probably even some unexpected ones. This approach allows the environment to play its part in the development of the instrument. After a few iterations, it should be fit to be operated successfully over its life-span.

Taking this development approach one step further, we are placing several conceptually different prototypes in the field, letting the environment "decide" which one is most suitable. The idea is to incorporate as many different design features as possible in a few carefully defined prototypes. In this case there are four, with varying levels of protection. Two of them have only a rain and solar cover, while the delicate electronics are protected locally by special coatings. Another prototype resembles the LOFAR HBA with its insulated housing, made of packaging material. The fourth is fully closed and made of low cost plastics.

Three out of four of these prototypes are now built. They are subjected to the first series of tests in the WSRT "bouwhal", before being placed in the open air. The closed prototype will follow in a few weeks time.
Copyright: ASTRON
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