14 December 2023

AAC Omnisys and Qamcom to build equipment for the world’s most advanced radio astronomy observatory

Big Science Sweden member companies AAC Omnisys and Qamcom have been awarded contracts to build receivers and digital converter systems, respectively, for the SKA Observatory telescopes in South Africa. Both contracts are based on research and long-term industrial collaborations at Chalmers University of Technology and Onsala Space Observatory.

World’s largest radio astronomy observatory

Sweden is helping to build the world’s largest and most advanced radio telescopes, now that the country’s first two industrial contracts for the SKA telescopes have been signed.

In August 2023, Sweden's first contract with SKAO was awarded to the technology company Qamcom, based in Gothenburg. Qamcom will supply subsystems with digital converters for three frequency bands for the SKA-Mid telescope. Using advanced signal processing, the equipment converts analogue radio signals from space into digital signals that can be analysed by researchers.

Recently, the second Swedish contract with SKAO was signed. The new contract, worth EUR 12 million (approximately SEK 137 million), has been awarded to AAC Omnisys, which will supply receivers for the dish antennas of the SKA-Mid telescope in South Africa. AAC Omnisys, also based in Gothenburg, is a subsidiary of AAC Clyde Space AB (publ), with its head office in Uppsala.

“The SKAO's telescopes will bring a revolution in the way we look at our universe, and we can look forward to many spectacular discoveries. To succeed in building the telescopes, though, both technical know-how and long-term partnerships are needed, so we need both university partners and industry partners. This collaborative work is what gives a return on investment, first in contracts like these and later in the form of science results,” says John Conway, director of Onsala Space Observatory and professor of radio astronomy at Chalmers.

AAC Omnisys will supply 80 receiver systems to the observatory. The receivers are the telescope's largest, each over a metre in diameter and weighing 180 kg. They are sensitive to radio waves in the telescope's lowest frequency band, Band 1 (0.35-1.05 GHz; wavelengths of 30-85 cm), and are based on a prototype developed by Onsala Space Observatory at Chalmers and tested both in Canada and on site in South Africa.

Close collaboration between industry and researchers

When the telescopes are up and running, scientists will be able to explore the universe tens of times faster, with several times the resolution and sensitivity of today's most advanced radio telescopes.

“I’m delighted that Qamcom and AAC Omnisys have received these orders for the SKAO. At Big Science Sweden, we are proud to have been able to contribute, through our work to support the Swedish parties that have been involved,” says Patrik Carlsson, Co-Director Big Science Sweden.

The new order for AAC Omnisys is based on research and technical development work done at Chalmers, Onsala Space Observatory, AAC Omnisys, and at the Gothenburg company Low Noise Factory.

“These successes show how important it is that Swedish researchers can enter early in development work at research facilities and that there is close collaboration between companies and researchers within academia, especially when it comes to this type of advanced technological development,” continues Patrik Carlsson.

Swedish expertise and industrial capacity

Big Science Sweden's efforts increase opportunities for Swedish industry and academia to strengthen the international research facilities and promote collaborations and business. The focus in this case has been on working actively together with the SKAO and Swedish actors, to take Swedish competence and industrial ability to SKAO. This will bring technically interesting business to Sweden, as well as ensuring Swedish return on investment in SKAO.

“We are now working to create more Swedish opportunities with the SKAO by supporting the Swedish actors in deliveries and collaborations. We are also working to engage more Swedish companies with the capacity to deliver this type of technically advanced equipment to other facilities,” says Patrik Carlsson.

More about SKAO and Sweden

The SKA Observatory (SKAO) is an intergovernmental organisation bringing together nations from around the world. Its mission is to build and operate cutting-edge radio telescopes to transform our understanding of the universe and deliver benefits to society through global collaboration and innovation.

Chalmers represents Sweden in this huge international project, which is building the world's most advanced radio telescope in South Africa and Australia, one the world's largest research infrastructure projects.

SKAO, responsible for building and operating the SKA telescopes, was founded in 2021 and has its head office near Manchester in the UK. Nine countries are full members of the SKAO, some countries are currently in the accession stage, and others are holding domestic discussions regarding the conditions of their accession.

In a partnership agreement between Sweden and the UK signed in June 2023, the Swedish Government expressed its intention for Sweden to become a member state of the organisation. As with other major international research facilities, such as CERN, the project is expected to give a boost to the country’s industries, especially in the technology sector, including fostering innovation and creating highly-skilled jobs.

If you require any further information

Håkan Nilsson, Business Developer & Project Manager at Big Science Sweden, +46 70 58 52 905