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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 hardware

Along with other SKA consortia, SDP is working towards implementing Software Engineering Institute (SEI) approaches to its software architecture documentation. This style is useful for promoting architecture decision processes based on concrete "quality attribute" scenarios. These methods will help us with addressing the many architectural trade-offs that SDP faces - balancing scientific accuracy with long-term modifiability and performance.

Paul Calleja

The SDP proceeds apace, implementing the management changes we outlined in our last SKA eNews contribution.

We planned our work for the October-November time period so that we could support the ongoing SKA engineering activities, and so that we could continue our work on the SDP Execution Framework, as well as work on the key algorithms that we will use to do all the processing within the SDP. We've also been conducting engineering workshops to make sure that we fully understand what makes designing the SDP such a challenge.