First SKA France Day

The first SKA France Day took place on October 16th, 2017 in the Jaurès amphitheatre of the ENS Ulm, Paris.

With 120 participants, including representatives from SKAO, the Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, organisations and institutions, as well as researchers and industrial partners, the meeting offered an important opportunity for exchanges and questions about the SKA project.

The presentation of the French SKA White Book (see below) clearly showed a wide awareness within the French community about the great challenges offered by the SKA project, both for research laboratories and for private companies.

The presentations from the SKA by Philip Diamond (SKA DG) and from SKA France by C. Ferrari (SKA France coordinator) were followed by ten talks illustrating some of the most original scientific and technological French contributions to the project. The meeting ended with the presentation by G. Marquette (SKA ILO) of the “Maison SKA France”, a new structure towards which the SKA France coordination is evolving, created as an instrument in response to the necessity of an innovative, financial approach for large research infrastructures.

All presentations are available at the SKA France web page.

French SKA White Book

The preparation of the French SKA White Book begun at the beginning of 2017 with the aim of illustrating the scientific and technological interests of the French community for the SKA project. The White Book was completed during the summer, and its main content was presented during the First SKA France Day, on October 16th.

This work includes the contribution of 176 authors from 40 research laboratories and 6 private companies. Their fields of interest cover all topics of the international SKA Science Working Groups, as well as the main ambitious technological challenges of the SKA.

The main body of the book is introduced by a short presentation of the project and a summary of the French situation and interests. Two conclusive chapters illustrate the fascinating interdisciplinary nature of the SKA and the “Maison SKA France” (see above).

The French SKA White Book is now freely available online.

A logo for SKA-France

The SKA-France coordination now has a logo that has been designed in collaboration with the SKAO Communications team. It will be adopted during the preparation phase towards a possible French official membership in the SKA project.

Paris Observatory officially involved in the SKA AADC Consortium

Paris Observatory has just officially joined the SKA AADC Consortium. Its contribution is based on the internationally recognised expertise of the electronic team of the Radioastronomy Station of Nançay.

Since the SKA re-costing activity of spring/early summer 2017, the Nançay team is working on the realisation of a LND (Low Noise Delay) to decrease the power consumption, with the same RF performances and a better integration.

The same team has been deeply involved in the conception of mid-frequency aperture arrays since 2004. This led to the construction of the EMBRACE prototype in collaboration with ASTRON (NL), to the ANR project “Aperture Array Integrated Receiver” (AAIR), and, in 2013, to the official involvement of Nançay in the SKA AAMID consortium.

Letters of support

Over several months, the SKA-France coordination is receiving important support letters from French industrial partners, which are available for download at the SKA-France web page.

In this perspective, after Ariane Group, ATOS, Callisto, DDN Storage, Engie, FEDD and NVIDIA, two relevant expressions of interest were sent in the last months to the SKA-France coordination by:

  • Thales Alenia Space (TAS), a joint-venture of the groups Thales and Leonardo, worldwide known in the fields of telecommunication, navigation, Earth observation, and construction and operation of orbital infrastructures
  • Air Liquide, a worldwide known company in gases, technologies and services for industry and health, has expressed its strong interest in developing renewable energetic solutions to face the cooling and energetics needs of the SKA in a fully innovative way.

Meeting about French participation to SKA Band 5

A workshop hosted by the French company Callisto took place on July 26, 2017 in Toulouse. The main objectives of the meeting were:

  • to describe the cryogenic solutions that could be provided by Callisto and of interest for the Phase 1 of the SKA project;
  • to discuss and identify possible French funding for collaborative projects between Callisto, other companies and research laboratories, in particular the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux (LAB), already deeply involved in Band 5 developments.

Following these two objectives, the meeting included representatives from Callisto, SKA-France coordination, LAB and Sysmeca Ingénierie (an SME offering scientific and technical expertise in research and development, with manufacturing capabilities).

Visit of SKA-France and Ariane Group to SKA Headquarters

On September 12, 2017, the SKA-France coordination and French representatives of Ariane Group were hosted at the SKA Headquarters to exchange ideas & best practice in large projects.

Five engineers and managers of Ariane Group joined and gave presentations about lessons learned from big projects and of interest for the SKA.

SKA-France HPC and Data Management Meeting

On September 19, 2017, SKA-France organised a meeting with the French companies interested to talk about how to face and be prepared to the future High Performance Computing and Data Managing SKA challenges.

Over several months SKA-France is coordinating a collaboration between Bull-ATOS and French researchers working on algorithm developments, with the main aim of optimising the hardware architectures and the parallelisation of the codes conceived by the scientists.

Our objective is now to take a step forward and have a more coordinated approach between all the French companies interested in the whole chain between the signal acquisition and validation, the image processing phase and the data storage. Representatives of Bull-ATOS, DDN Storage and Thales Alenia Space participated to the meeting.

SKA in the French news

An interview of the SKA-France coordinator about the SKA project and SKA-France activities has been published in the September issue of the French magazine “Ciel & espace”.

The interview is inserted within a reportage concerning the beginning of operations of MeerKAT, the South African SKA precursor telescope.

On October 20th, 2017, a delegation of the association of scientific journalists from the information press (AJSP) visited the Radioastronomy Station of Nançay (Paris Observatory/CNRS/Orléans University). This was an opportunity to talk about radio astronomy in general, the Station, the results of its existing instruments, the construction of NenuFAR and the SKA project. A successful visit under the sun, which gave rise to an article on the national press concerning also the SKA project.

Report provided by Chiara Ferrari, Coordinator of SKA-France