Scientists at Cambridge have finished designing the ‘brain’ of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope.

When complete, the SKA will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the entire sky much faster than any system currently in existence, researchers said.

The SKA’s Science Data Processor (SDP) consortium has concluded its engineering design work, marking the end of five years’ work to design one of two supercomputers that will process the enormous amounts of data produced by the SKA’s telescopes.

“We estimate SDP’s total compute power to be around 250 PFlops — that’s 25 per cent faster than IBM’s Summit, the current fastest supercomputer in the world,” said Maurizio Miccolis, SDP’s Project Manager for the SKA Organisation.

“In total, up to 600 petabytes of data will be distributed around the world every year from SDP — enough to fill more than a million average laptops,” he said.

The SDP consortium, led by the University of Cambridge in the UK, has designed the elements that will together form the ‘brain’ of the SKA.
SDP is the second stage of processing for the masses of digitised astronomical signals collected by the telescope’s receivers.

In total, close to 40 institutions in 11 countries took part.

The role of the consortium was to design the computing hardware platforms, software, and algorithms needed to process science data from the Central Signal Processor (CSP) into science data products..

SDP itself will be composed of two supercomputers, one located in Cape Town, South Africa and one in Perth, Australia.