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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

Lovell telescope behind new SKA HQ building on 17 Jan 2019

At the end of October 2018 the SKA SDP Consortium submitted its Critical Design Review (CDR) documentation pack. Contained in this were the formal deliverables of the design consortium covering all aspects of the SDP architecture, system engineering and programmatics (the documents are available here).  The documents were received by the CDR reviewers (consisting of 3 external members and 15 internal to SKAO) who proceeded to generate clarification questions, requests and notes in the form of observations (called OARs after the Observation Action Register approach commonly used for them). Where possible these were addressed via communication exchanges in JIRA OAR tickets.

From 15th to 19th January 2019 members of the SDP Consortium then visited the SKAO HQ at Jodrell Bank (see figure 1), where direct discussions took place in the new SKAO Council Chamber (see figure 2), to further explore the architecture and identify risks as part of an SEI Architecture Tradeoff Analysis Method (ATAM).


At the end of October the SDP Consortium submitted its full document set for Critical Design Review. (These can be found at http://ska-sdp.org/publications/sdp-cdr-documentation) together with a large number of supporting memos (http://ska-sdp.org/publications/released-sdp-memos-i and http://ska-sdp.org/publications/released-sdp-memos-ii). Table 1 below shows the documents in three main categories: those associated with software and hardware architecture; those explaining the supporting prototyping work that has been undertaken in support of the architecture, and finally those associated with system engineering (SE) and programmatics aspects (e.g. specifications for how SDP interfaces with the wider telescope systems and how components will be constructed). The documents will receive observations from a panel of reviewers up until the end of December. Responses to the observations and scenarios to ‘test’ the architecture will then be discussed at a review meeting from 15th to 18th January 2019 at Jodrell Bank.