UFRO will evaluate alternatives for antenna control systems for ALMA

2 January, 2020

Some of the ALMA observatory’s control systems were designed over 10 years ago and will soon need to be replaced. Universidad de la Frontera (UFRO) in Temuco, Chile, was awarded Quimal funds from Conicyt to explore maintenance alternatives for these real-time systems.

“We are very pleased with the outcome, which is the product of an active collaboration between the observatory and the university over the last five years,” says Jorge Ibsen, Head of Computing at ALMA. “This project marks an important contribution from southern Chile to the development of local astro-engineering.”

Dr. Patricio Galeas, professor in charge of the project, will work with a budget of around 200 million Chilean pesos and will have two years to develop the project in conjunction with ALMA. This is the first time that UFRO has been awarded an initiative of this size in the field of astronomy.

“This development represents an important experience for the University and can generate the knowledge needed to solve similar problems in other astronomic observatories,” indicates Dr. Patricio Galeas, adding that the research team will be made up of both academic staff and students.

The general purpose of the initiative is to design and implement a Proof of Concept (PoC) for the real-time control system, using cutting-edge industry standards.

Tzu Chiang-Chen, Manager of the Engineering Services Group, says that “this project is of vital importance for ALMA, because it won’t just solve the obsolescence issue in the antennas’ real-time control system. It will also generate the transfer of knowledge between the observatory and UFRO.”

The main purpose of the Quimal fund awarded to UFRO is to strengthen and promote the development of scientific astronomical research and related sciences, through projects with special emphasis on the design and construction of astronomic instrumentation; the development of astronomy-related technologies for emerging fields of research; and cutting-edge technological transfer processes.  The competition was targeted at astronomers, astrophysicists and engineers from areas related to astronomy to promote the association of national institutions and researchers in the development of avant-garde technologies.

Additional Information

ALMA is a partnership between ESO (on behalf of its European Member States), NSF (USA), and NINS (Japan); together with NRC (Canada), MOST and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO, and NAOJ.

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