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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

SDP PRE-CDR OAR Status

Since the last eNews submission in April 2018, the SDP Consortium successfully submitted a documentation pack of roughly 30 documents for its Pre-CDR, M20, milestone to the SKAO. The documentation pack included key Systems Engineering documents, Interface Control Documents (ICDs) and an updated snapshot of the latest SDP Architecture views since the M19 submission and review in November 2017.

In late June, a two-step review process was undertaken between SDP Consortium representatives and the SKAO M20 review panel. The first step was a documentation review process where the objective was to understand and assess the suitability and risks associated with the SDP design before entering the CDR review process. The second step was a face to face meeting which first analysed the suitability of SDP software architecture to meet the needs of its stakeholders, conducted using the SEI ATAM (Architecture Trade-Off Analysis Method) process and based on scenarios generated previously and then discussed observations made against the documentation pack in the first step.

SIP ARL

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.