Qamcom continues its odyssey with SKAO to unveil the secrets of the universe

– as Qamcom is awarded a new extended and expanded contract

September 5, 2023

The Swedish technology company, Qamcom, has been granted a new extended and expanded contract by the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO). SKAO is a global initiative to build and operate the two largest radio telescopes in the world, located in Australia and South Africa. The purpose is to transform our understanding of the Universe and deliver benefits to society through global collaboration and innovation. Qamcom’s responsibility has been extended from hardware development to systems responsibility for a complete subsystem, drawing upon the full capabilities of the company, from systems engineering and electronics development to project and production management as well as verification, installation and integration. This is the first contract awarded by the SKAO to a Swedish company, as part of the commitment of the Observatory to ensure industrial return for each member’s industries.

Removing the haystack from the needle

Qamcom’s mission is to create and produce a subsystem for the SKA-Mid telescope (the one located in South Africa) that will transform analog radio signals coming from space into amplified and clean digital signals – including filter out all non-essential data and reduce external and internal noise. Given the distances involved, interferences, and the vast amount of data, it can be likened to removing haystacks from needles. The purpose is to provide relevant information, enhance quality, and streamline analysis through exceptionally advanced signal processing. The subsystem is called Single Pixel Feed Receivers for Bands 1,2 and 3 (SPFRx123). Towards the end of the decade, when the subsystem is installed and the telescope operational, researchers will be able to gaze into the universe at four times higher resolution, with five times higher sensitivity and 60 times faster than the currently most advanced radio telescope in the world.

“We consider this prestigious assignment to be a tremendous honor, not only for Qamcom but also for Sweden as a whole, positioning us on the global map as a forefront technology provider in the science context. The extended and expanded scope of the project stands as a testament to our ability to instill trust and meet the demand for world-class expertise, as demonstrated through our prior collaboration with SKAO, via Chalmers Industriteknik and Onsala Space Observatory. We eagerly anticipate shouldering increased responsibility, managing the entire project lifecycle – from project management, development and industrialization to education for the integration and installation of the subsystem,” says Bengt Münter, Project Manager at Qamcom.

A global collaboration

The Qamcom assignment, which will extend until 2027, involves an international collaboration where Qamcom bears the responsibility of integrating components from other suppliers into the main system. The project also involves various segments of the Qamcom Group, including Ranatec, a specialist company specializing in manufacturing test and measurement products, which will construct the necessary hardware. Qamcom’s involvement in the SKA project is also carried out in collaboration with Onsala Space Observatory and Chalmers University of Technology, who are leading Swedish interests in the construction of the SKAO’s telescopes.

“We at Chalmers and at Onsala Space Observatory are delighted that this, the first Swedish industrial contract with the SKAO has been signed. Scientists in Sweden have been involved in the SKA project since its inception. Now we are excited to have Swedish industry on board as construction for the SKA telescopes is underway and Sweden is finalising its discussions on membership of the SKAO”, says John Conway, director of Onsala Space Observatory and professor of radio astronomy at Chalmers.

Are we alone in the Universe?

SKAO is not just any observatory; it stands as one of the mega-science facilities of the 21st century and is set to complete the construction of its two world-class telescopes by the end of the decade. With regard to SKAO’s scientific goals, which encompass probing cosmic dawn, challenging Einstein’s theories, investigating dark energy, exploring galaxy evolution, seeking the origins of life, and gaining more knowledge about our own galaxy, we are indeed poised for an exciting future.