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The Science Data Processor (SDP) Consortium is part of the effort to design the SKA (Square Kilometre Array), the world's largest radio telescope. With telescopes in South African and Australian deserts, the project aims to chart the history of the universe.

The SDP will process data from each telescope and create images and other products to be distributed to astronomers across the world. Vast amounts of data will be produced by the telescope and need to be processed and transmitted; these data rates will exceed that of the entire global internet traffic per day. It will also generate alerts when it detects new transient objects of astronomical interest. For example, if it observes the start of a supernova, this will be noticed and transmitted to other observatories so several telescopes worldwide can observe it.

To achieve this, a supercomputer-scale computing facility will need to be used for the processing of the data, and a fresh and carefully considered approach to software engineering, algorithms, and computing operations will need to be developed. The SDP’s computing platform will host the processing pipelines (taking the raw data from the telescopes and converting this into usable data for scientists) and the data storage software. The computing platform includes hardware, operating system, SKA-originated software, and third party software. The processing pipelines include all software for ingesting, calibrating, editing, imaging, cataloguing, and searching data to produce science data products.

The SDP Consortium is a collaboration of astrophysicists, engineers and computer scientists working in 11 countries worldwide, who are together forming the design for the SDP platform and software. The consortium is led by Professor Paul Alexander at the University of Cambridge. Consortium members mostly work for universities and research institutes, but the SDP Consortium partners also work closely with industry. The scale of the project means that industry involvement is required in the development, manufacturing, construction, and maintenance of the equipment. This includes contracting work with specific industry partners, attending and delivering regular briefings, and trialling the latest computer technology.

If you are interested in working with the SDP, or would like to find out more about what we do, please contact us using our Contact Form.

Recent news


Since the last eNews submission the SDP has successfully submitted and certified its last milestone, M19, and now is busy preparing for the next milestone, M20, Pre-CDR. The M20 Release Readiness Notice (RRN) was submitted in early March and contains 19 documents within the submission pack. This list includes Systems Engineering documents, Interface documentation (ICDs) and an updated snapshot of the latest SDP Architecture views since the M19 submission.

This pre-CDR milestone is a stepping stone to a successful CDR delivery in October.  An incremental submission allows valuable key stakeholder feedback to be gained in particular on the architectural design to ensure continuous improvement and alignment of architectural priorities.

In addition to the finalisation of deliverables for Pre-CDR submission, other areas of focus for the Consortium are - further iterations of the SDP software architecture, advances in the SEI views of the high-level SDP architecture, continued understanding of the SDP interfaces, progress on the SDP functional model using the Algorithmic Reference Library (ARL), progress on the SDP prototyping testbed (P3) in Cambridge, progress on the SDP Integration Prototype (SIP) including end-to-end testing, consolidation of data models work, monitoring of the hardware costs evolution and updates to the corresponding predicted cost to name a few!

The sections below expand in further detail the recent work efforts and progress in the areas of platform and systems integration prototyping (P3, SIP) as well as the ARL. This work reduces risk and provides the rationale for design choices ahead of System CDR.

SDP Architecture doc

The next significant milestone for the SDP Consortium is M19 on the 30th November. M19 is a lightweight review of the current state of the SDP software architecture and forms a checkpoint with the SKAO to present the current state of the architecture and progress towards Critical Design Review (CDR).

All relevant SDP SEI style views and other supporting documentation for functionally close blocks of architecture will be reviewed. The goal is to present the information in sufficient detail to facilitate immediate use by a knowledgeable audience member.

In preparation for this review, a Stakeholders Overview will take place. The required participants will include key members of the SDP architectural design team and knowledgeable stakeholders from SKAO. This review is to ensure that the high-level architecture documentation, for the purposes of providing an introductory, high-level explanation of the design, is sufficiently complete. In preparation for this overview, key members of the SDP Architecture design team recently selected a collection of views for review and this information has been distributed to the SKAO.

Comments and or suggestions made during the Stakeholder Overview and the official M19 review will guide further architectural priorities ahead of M20 (Element pre-CDR).