Radio Telescopes

Microgate experience also covers the implementation of complex control systems based on standard hardware and software platforms, in particular VME systems running under VxWorks or RTAI Linux real time operating systems.

This expertise is exploited by the design, integration and commissioning of sophisticated control systems for main axes control in Telescopes and Radio-Telescopes.


ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetric Array) is currently the most ambitious radioastronomy project. It foresees the construction of 66 radiotelescopes (54 with 12m dish diameter + 12 with 7m dish diameter), placed above 5000m (16400 feet) elevation on a plateau in the Atacama desert (Chile). The antennas will be operated by remote control. For additional information on the ALMA project, see also Eso Official Site.

Microgate, has designed and is currently delivering the Antenna Control Units (ACU) and the metrology systems for the Alma European Consortium as subcontractor of EIE.

The ALMA ACU is the "brain" of the antenna, performing the following main tasks:

  • main axes control system, including trajectory planner
  • subsystems control and diagnostics
  • monitoring of all safety mechanisms of the antenna
  • thermal metrology
  • tiltmeter-based metrology to compensate for wind gusts effects
  • remote antenna control through CAN interface

The ACU is based on a VME architecture using mostly off-the-shelf components. Accurate system synchronization is achieved through dedicated Microgate Hardware. The software runs under RTAI Linux real time operating systems.
To facilitate on-site testing and performance tuning, we have developed a powerful Matlab-based diagnostic and post processing interface that directly interacts with the Antenna Control Unit without interfering with its operation.