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SKA AA-low

(SKALA) Antenna development

Brief

The University of Cambridge is playing a key role in the international effort to construct the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope. It needed to turn its prototype low-band antenna design to a design that can be manufactured in high volume at low cost. The antenna has to meet a demanding specification and survive in a harsh desert environment for 50 years.

Approach

We worked closely with the university team to propose a number of low-cost manufacturing methods and liaised with a manufacturer to bring in their suggestions. This involved:

  • Electrical and physical design iteration with the university
  • Design for manufacture iteration with a manufacturing partner
  • Design, build and test of a new, broadband, low-noise amplifier, for direct installation on the antenna
  • Mechanical design of the fully integrated antenna unit, including metal and plastic parts
  • Build of two first-article antenna units
  • Liaising with and supporting the university during its test programme

Benefit

By tying together the university’s antenna design and simulation expertise with internal and external design for manufacture experience, we arrived at an optimised design that not only provided high performance but met the project manufacturing cost targets.

Antenna development

The university was ready to build a small array to confirm its performance models and then take the SKA AA-low array development towards full-scale manufacture.