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NCLE: First Light

Submitter: David Prinsloo
Description: Last week, the first (of three) of The Netherlands China Long-wavelength Explorer (NCLE) boards, for which ASTRON is responsible and that will be shipped to China for testing on the Chang'e 4 satellite, flickered to life. The little green light depicted in the lower left figure gives the A-okay for the power supply to the low-noise amplifier (LNA) that will ultimately guide some of the oldest signals in our universe to digitization.

Breathing life into this LNA-board has by no means been a trivial task. With Mark Ruiter overseeing the design, Sieds Damstra meticulously placed and traced around 1000 component footprints that make up the layout of this LNA. As shown in the top left figure, Albert van Duin had to make use of most of the resources available within the visible spectrum to keep track of the component positions during assembly. With the steady hand of Margaretha ten Caat from Major Electronics b.v. guided by Albert's preparatory artwork, all surface mount components were fixed in place in a single day's work.
Finally, moving higher still in frequency, the board assembly was inspected through x-ray images at Neways, shown in the center-left image.

This LNA-board, along with the remaining two, will soon be shipped to China where they will be put to the test to ensure that their green lights will continue burning at their final destination depicted here on the right: the far-side of the moon.
Copyright: ASTRON
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