Media release

SKA Consortium completes design of Science Data Processor

09 May 2019

International consortium of computing specialists complete the engineering design work of the Science Data Processor for the Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope.

The role of the SDP consortium was to design the computing hardware platforms, software, and algorithms needed to process science data into science data products (astronomical images). The SKA SDP will be composed of two supercomputers, one located in Cape Town, South Africa to process data from SKA-Mid, and one in Perth, Western Australia, to process data from SKA-Low. South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) scientists, as well as SARAO-funded industry, have been members of the SDP Consortium since the approval of the concept design review in 2012.

An international consortium of computing specialists, led by the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, has completed the engineering design work of the Science Data Processor (SDP) for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Telescope, to the level required for a Critical Design Review (CDR).

The role of the SDP consortium was to design the computing hardware platforms, software, and algorithms needed to process science data into science data products (astronomical images). The SKA SDP will be composed of two supercomputers, one located in Cape Town, South Africa to process data from SKA-Mid, and one in Perth, Western Australia, to process data from SKA-Low.

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) scientists, as well as SARAO-funded industry, have been members of the SDP Consortium since the approval of the concept design review in 2012. SARAO’s Technical Lead for Scientific Computing, Simon Ratcliffe, was selected as the SDP Consortium System Engineer in 2012, and SARAO System Engineer, Shagita Gounden, was appointed to the SDP Consortium on a full-time basis to work on the control and monitoring component of the SDP – the system that allows sub-elements within the SDP to communicate with each other, as well as with external elements such as the Telescope Manager and the Central Signal Processor. In addition to SARAO’s contribution, South Africa’s Space Advisory Company (SAC) and Eclipse Holdings, who were awarded funding from SARAO’s Financial Assistance Programme (FAP), seconded four engineers to the SDP consortium. As part of this effort, SAC’s Data Processing System Engineer, Ferdl Graser, was appointed as the SDP Consortium System Engineer in 2014, and has distinguished himself in this role, culminating in the recently passed Critical Design Review.

The CSIR Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) are other South African members of the SDP Consortium. The CHPC provides compute platform testing and innovation services, by leveraging the significant compute resources it has available, while UCT provides the lead of the SDP delivery work-package through Professor Rob Simmonds, from the Department of Computer Science, as well as supporting the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy.

SARAO Managing Director, Dr Rob Adam, congratulated the SKA SDP Consortium on passing the Critical Design Review and said he was proud of the world-class design work completed by SARAO system engineers, which will contribute to the SKA’s ability to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail. “The unique requirements for the SDP have also driven our specialists to be creative and design unique technologies that allows SARAO to contribute to economic development and commercialisation in South Africa.”

SARAO will continue to play an important role in the SKA bridging phase, during the lead up to construction of the SKA SDP. Through an extension of the FAP programme, five industry-based engineers, as well as three SARAO employed engineers, will work with international computing specialists to develop and construct the SDP.

Media Enquiries: Kim de Boer on kdeboer@ska.ac.za, 011 442 2434 or 083 276 3282

 

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), a facility of the National Research Foundation, is responsible for managing all radio astronomy initiatives and facilities in South Africa, including the MeerKAT Radio Telescope in the Karoo, and the Geodesy and VLBI activities at the HartRAO facility. SARAO also coordinates the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN) for the eight SKA partner countries in Africa, as well as South Africa’s contribution to the infrastructure and engineering planning for the Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope. To maximise the return on South Africa’s investment in radio astronomy, SARAO is managing programmes to create capacity in radio astronomy science and engineering research, and the technical capacity required to support site operations.

www.sarao.ac.za

The Square Kilometre Array

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by the SKA Organisation based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester, UK. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve our understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes, called an array, to be spread over long distances. The SKA will be constructed in Australia and South Africa; with a later expansion in both countries and into other African countries.

Already supported by 12 countries – Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom – the SKA Organisation has brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers and more than 100 companies and research institutions in the design and development of the telescope.

www.skatelescope.org

Contact

Kim de Boer
SARAO Acting Head of Communications and Stakeholder Relations
Email: kdeboer@ska.ac.za
Tel: +27 11 442-2434