Receiver systems in radio astronomy consist of a number of components, starting with the antenna, via a number of discrete electronic components to the digital electronic boards. The technology development towards Compact Receiver systems aims to integrate these components and lower the overall cost of the telescope’s frontend technology.
In the internet of things, small antennas and electronic components are required in almost all equipment. The integration to compact receiver systems as we pursue is extremely relevant to trend in society towards smart homes, smart grids, smart cities and smart society.
In most radio astronomical frontends of today, the analog, digital and optoelectronic parts are still separated. As a result, components with different, stand-alone designs are combined into a telescope frontend. While this approach was very successful in the past, we are facing a practical and economic problem if the number of elements in the radio telescope is increasing substantially, like in the case of the SKA telescope. Also, the benefits of complete system integration are not fully exploited if the parts in the frontend are separated. Especially the interconnections between the parts can be dominant sources of failures, gain-frequency dependencies and phase instabilities in the receiver chain. Our efforts therefore focus on the development a completely integrated solution, the Compact Receiver system.
In addition, the use of an antenna remoting approach in the telescope architecture, i.e. concentrating the telescope functionality (hardware) at a central location, gets more-and-more attractive as it provides the lowest operational costs and the largest functionality for the astronomer. The currently applied (analog) signal transport techniques in the telescope front-end do not fully support the antenna remoting approach due to limitations in the transmission distance, dynamic range and RF phase stability. To remove these limitations, we intend to apply digitization at the antenna.
The Compact Receiver approach focusses on integrating technologies in the analog/digital electronic, electronic/photonic and mechanical domains. The functionalities provided by these domains cover the complete signal path in the telescope front-end up to the central signal processor of a telescope.