The basic application of RT-32 and RT-16 parabolic antennas is radio astronomy observations, both the radio-telescopes have been upgraded with state-of-the art cryogenic receivers, and now a large-scale modernization of the infrastructure is underway. Since the radio-astronomical observations are not full-time activities, a research work has been done to clear up whether these antennas, besides the mentioned activities, can be used as a satellite ground station. The main goal of this added functionality is to make possible the use of the extremely high reception systems’ figure-of-merit thus raising the satellite downlink data rates without increasing the on-board power consumption, which would be particularly important for developers of small satellites. In this paper, the progress in the research project is reported, which includes successful S-band satellite signal reception experiments and possible options as to integration of the related equipment into the system so that both functionalities could successfully coexist. Performance of the existing and the upgraded antenna positioning systems is estimated to determine if the latter are usable even for servicing low-Earth orbiting satellites. In addition, possible options are considered as to upgrading the system with automatic beam tracking capability, which would increase the antenna pointing accuracy even further.
In the present paper, recent measurement results of refurbished Irbene RT-16 radio telescope receiving system performance are presented. The aim of the research is to evaluate characteristics of RT-16, which will allow carrying out necessary amplitude calibration in both single dish and VLBI observations, to improve the performance of existing system as well as to monitor, control and compare performance if possible changes in the receiving system will occur in future. The evaluated receiving system is 16 m Cassegrain antenna equipped with a cryogenic receiver with frequency range from 4.5 to 8.8 GHz, which is divided into four sub-bands. Multiple calibration sessions have been carried out by observing stable astronomical sources with known flux density by using in-house made total power registration backend. First, pointing offset calibration has been carried out and pointing model coefficients calculated and applied. Then, amplitude calibration, namely antenna sensitivity, calibration diode equivalent flux density and gain curve measurements have been carried out by observing calibration sources at different antenna elevations at each of the receiver sub-bands. Beam patterns have also been evaluated at different frequency bands. As a whole, acquired data will serve as a reference point for comparison in future performance evaluation of RT-16.
M. Bleiders, A. Berzins, N. Jekabsons, K. Skirmante and Vl. Bezrukovs
Irbene RT-32 radio telescope is one of the main instruments operated by Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center (VIRAC), which is used for participation in VLBI and single-dish mode observations, including European VLBI Network (EVN) and other astronomy projects such as recently started research on small bodies of solar system, which involves weak spectral line detection at L-band. Since start of the operation as a radio telescope, single C-X band receiver has been available at RT-32, but regular demand for L-band frequencies has been received due to its importance in spectral line science. In case of RT-32 geometry, optimum dimensions of L-band feed antenna system are inconveniently large and its installation without significant feed cone rebuilding is complicated. While work is currently ongoing to redesign the feed cone for multiple receiver support and to develop high performance L-band feed system, temporal, compact and low-cost receiver has been built and installed laterally to secondary focus, which in sense of performance and functionality has been proven to be appropriate for most of the current needs. Receiver is based on small parabolic reflector allowing one to use a compact dual circular polarized horn antenna, which together with a Cassegrain antenna forms a three-mirror system. Front-end is uncooled that allows reducing operational and maintenance costs, while still providing acceptable noise performance. Practical tests show average overall sensitivity of 750 Jy at 1650 MHz in terms of system effective flux density (SEFD). The paper describes the development of the receiver and presents the main results of performance characterization obtained at Irbene RT-32.