CORDIS - EU research results
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LOFAR for Space Weather

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - LOFAR4SW (LOFAR for Space Weather)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2022-02-28

Space Weather research and monitoring are fundamental to our understanding of our long-term space climate. Knowledge of interactions in the Sun-Earth system, the physics behind observed space-weather phenomena, and their direct impact on modern technologies are key areas of interest, for example, for scientists, engineers, technicians, satellite and power grid operators, those involved in navigation and communications, the aviation sector, space weather service providers, STEM practitioners, and of course the military. This involves all aspects of political, forecaster, end-user, and scientific engagement with various stakeholders with the full recognition that space weather is a worldwide potential threat with varied local, regional, continent-wide, and global impacts.
The LOFAR For Space Weather (LOFAR4SW) project (Horizon 2020 INFRADEV) was a design study that looked into an upgrade of the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) radio telescope. The project laid out a novel design to bring new capabilities into the space-weather domain. This design addressed all conceptual and technical aspects required to upgrade the LOFAR system to take on a new parallel role as a space-weather monitoring facility. Several of the desired Space Weather observations are currently undertaken using LOFAR observing time gained via peer-reviewed time applications, but often not simultaneously, and not alongside the normal astronomy observations as LOFAR does not possess this inherent capability required.
When fully implemented, this innovative new facility will enable large-scale monitoring projects that will generate unique LOFAR data for the European (and global) space-weather research community. These data will have great downstream potential for improved precision of and advance warnings for space weather events affecting crucial infrastructure here on earth.
The LOFAR4SW design process drew together a body of hand-picked international scientists that identified and rated the impact of a range of space weather science goals. A trade-off study balanced these goals with the technical requirements to achieve them. The project designed requirements and priorities of the LOFAR4SW upgrade based on these community needs. The resulting LOFAR space weather telescope design incorporates the existing LOFAR system specifications, the design goals formed by the science community and the formal system engineering process. The project delivered a LOFAR4SW implementation plan including building costs for the upgrade process. Upgrading the LOFAR telescope with the LOFAR4SW design will provide a solution for the space weather community's needs.
The LOFAR4SW design study followed a comprehensive Systems Engineering approach, tailored to the project. The effort was broken down into eight cohesive Work Packages, interrelated through a well-defined workflow.
The project started in December 2017 with the preliminary design phase that culminated with a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) in February 2019. A detailed design phase was concluded with two review sessions; a delta review in November 2019, a final Detailed Design Review (DDR) in March 2020. This milestone marked the beginning of the prototype phase that culminated with a Critical Design Review (CDR) in September 2021.

A new dual beam High Band Antenna (HBA) tile architecture was finalised. Using this architecture, the electronics were developed and prototyped. A more experimental ASIC integration of the LNA (Low noise amplifiers) and a four-channel beamformer was successfully completed.
The HBA tile functionality is concentrated in Line replaceable units (LRU's): the low noise amplifier and beamformer boards, both designed, built and verified during the project. The HBA tile can be remotely controlled thanks to additional firmware developed.
A dual-beam HBA was built and prototyped in the Dwingeloo test field in the Netherlands. This allowed the verification of requirements thanks to a series of experiments, all reported in the final documentation. In parallel, a prototype was constructed and operated at Chilbolton (UK) in order to test and run the complex software associated with automatic operation of the LOFAR4SW telescope.
Automatic data processing pipelines for solar, IPS and pulsar data have been finalised and delivered. A solution for telescope control software was developed and source code published as a project called iLiSA on GitHub. Archiving software solutions were investigated and the Science Data Management Plan was completed.

During the course of LOFAR4SW, the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT) initiated the process to become an ERIC. This fundamental transformation had an impact in the governance aspect of the design. Attention was given to raise awareness of the potential of space weather and to gather support from ILT stakeholders and decision makers. The definition of key activities to be undertaken during the different stages in the transformation will ensure that space weather remains fully integrated in LOFAR ERIC activities. The first step materialized during the last months of the project; a focus group within the Solar and Space weather Key science project was formed, with the purpose of preserving the momentum from LOFAR4SW among the ILT partners, and to continue working towards a fully implemented LOFAR4SW.
Three main events took place during the last phase of the project: the Stakeholder’s workshop in October 2021, the Final Demo Session and the Policy makers workshop on February 14 and 15, 2022. The project was presented at numerous local and international meetings. The LOFAR4SW website and Twitter account were regularly updated with information about the progress and news. Information was also published in the newsletter and distributed as a leaflet to reach the general public.
Building on LOFAR, a cutting-edge facility, the LOFAR4SW project designed the most advanced space weather radio instrument in the world. The LOFAR4SW facility provides ground-breaking insights applicable for the forecasting of any adverse impact on this societal infrastructure, ultimately contributing to a greater protection of humanity's most essential technologies which are constantly relied upon.

The use cases compiled in the LOFAR4SW project confirm the impressive impact that the envisaged LOFAR4SW upgrade will have. This high potential has been publicised at several well-attended conferences in the field. The project engaged with key members of the space weather community during several workshops and meetings organised by the consortium, the purpose was to raise awareness about the unique capabilities of LOFAR4SW, and to collect valuable feedback that was used throughout the design process -this was especially true of the end-user and potential funder workshops/engagements. International experts in the fields of space weather research, forecasting, engineering and operations were invited to take part in the design reviews held at the end of each major development stage. Their expertise was crucial to improve the final output of the LOFAR4SW project.
Graphic on LOFAR4SW
Leaflet on LOFAR4SW