March 5, 2024

Energizing the World’s Largest Radio Telescope With SMART Box “Radio-Quiet” Electronics

An artists impression of a station of radio antennas. Each station has 256 antennas, and the SKA-Low telescope will have 512 stations. Credit: DISR
” Being part of the SKA project is an amazing chance for AVI to contribute what we have discovered over our thirty-five years of providing solidified electronic systems to the mining, security, and defense sectors. Extreme temperatures, ingress defense, and the low sound requirements, coupled with the remoteness of this place offer more chances to learn and develop” he said.

An artists impression of a station of radio antennas. Each station has 256 antennas, and the SKA-Low telescope will have 512 stations. Credit: DISR
A group of scientists, specialists, and engineers has developed a SMART box to power the worlds biggest radio telescope.
The Power and Signal Distribution (PaSD) SMART boxes (Small Modular Aggregation RFoF Trunk) are a vital component of the Square Kilometre Array Low frequency (SKA-Low) telescope, presently under building and construction at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, in Western Australia.
The SMART boxes supply electrical power to the SKA-Low telescopes 131,072 antennas and collect signals received from the sky to go off-site for processing.

The Development Journey
The Engineering & & Operations team at the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) developed and developed the very first set of 24 SMART boxes, which were 10 years in the making.
The electronic board developed and constructed by the Curtin ICRAR engineering team. Credit: ICRAR
Obstacles and Solutions
Tom Booler, Program Lead for Engineering and Operations at ICRAR, stated they are the only electrical gadgets that must be put among the antennas, creating a difficulty for this sensitive devices.
” The SKA-Low telescope will get exquisitely faint signals that have taken a trip throughout deep space for billions of years,” he said.
” To discover them, the SKA-Low telescope is being developed in a beautiful radio quiet zone far from the interference produced by modern technology.
24 prototype PaSD SMART boxes all set to be set up at the SKA site. Credit: ICRAR
” Its so radio peaceful at the observatory site that the most significant possible source of interference is the electronic devices like ours, due to the proximity to the antennas. That meant our task needed to fulfill the strictest radio emission requirements across the entire Australian SKA site.”
The group needed to source special radio peaceful parts that release very little interference, changing the more noisy ones. The parts were then covered in a specifically developed case to avoid any stray radio waves from leaving.
Packages were evaluated at a dedicated electro-magnetic test facility in South Africa, where they passed with flying colors.
Mihaela Safta from the Curtin node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy research explains how the group developed a desert-proof, radio-quiet power supply for the worlds largest radio telescope. Credit: ICRAR
” The radio quiet results that the ICRAR-designed SMART boxes accomplished were to the highest requirements in radio astronomy. A mobile phone on the surface area of the moon would cause more interference to the antennas than the SMART boxes that sit amongst them,” Mr. Booler said.
Contract and Future Prospects
An agreement to develop up to 12,000 SMART boxes for the entire fit-out of the SKA-Low telescope was just recently granted to Perth-based business AVI after a competitive tender process. This is the greatest agreement in Australia for SKA building and construction, outside facilities, and software application, understanding the benefits meant from the Australian Governments financial investment into SKA pre-construction activities over the previous decade.
ICRAR team who helped design the PaSD SMART boxes. Credit: ICRAR
Mr. Booler said he was pleased to see that the SMART boxes would be integrated in Western Australia, a promising sign of Australias sovereign ability in the space industry, and one that could be leveraged into the future.
AVI Managing Director, Tony Routledge stated the company was proud to be included.
” Being part of the SKA job is an unbelievable chance for AVI to contribute what we have learned over our thirty-five years of providing hardened electronic systems to the security, mining, and defense sectors. Extreme environments are our specialized. Extreme temperatures, ingress protection, and the low noise requirements, paired with the remoteness of this location offer more opportunities to develop and discover” he said.
” I believe we are all eager to be a part of what findings may become exposed by the radio telescope.”