Low-cost Radio Interferometer

The purpose of this project is to develop the open-source hardware and software that can easily be constructed, upgraded, and maintained by a student organization at a university, while providing students in Astronomy, Physics, and Engineering, hands-on experience with radio instrumentation. Our plan at Penn State University, is to construct a two-element interferometer, which is capable of autonomous operation under solar power, to act as a prototype for other universities, with the potential for inter-university student organization collaboration. The main frequency of interest chosen was that of 408 MHz, originally due to the low RFI environment at that frequency around the University Park Campus. Additionally, that frequency allows for less-precise timing measurements (i.e. through an oven-controlled crystal oscillator OCXO and GPS) to be conducted under a VLBI paradigm at lower cost in contrast to professional timing systems such as Hydrogen Masers.

Funding Considerations
We have obtained substantial start-up funds from the University Park Allocations Committee, as well as the Eberly College of Science Student Council. This has allowed for the purchasing of several pieces of test equipment, as well as the initial construction of a Alt-Az Yagi Antenna on the roof of the Astronomy building (later to be moved off site). We have also composed and submitted a substantial grant to the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium, which was rejected due to the amount requested. We are currently exploring other options to complete the project.

Partnership and Support
We have received support from the Pennsylvania State University Physics department in the form of a laboratory, and several pieces of test equipment. We have received support from the Eberly College of Science in terms of computing hardware. We have received consulting advice, and loaned hardware from the Applied Electromagnetics Group at Penn State Applied Research Lab (ARL), such as a long range radio transmitter for computer data interlink, and a 1.9 meter radio Dish.