P17571: Sunspot Radio Telescope

Problem Definition

Table of Contents

Team Vision for Problem Definition Phase

Our plan for the first phase of our project was to establish a solid project foundation by determining our required project deliverables. Early on, we had an informative discussion with our customer and primary sponsor, Professor Martin Pepe. From there, we collectively examined his requirements and extrapolated them into a list of project deliverables.

Project Summary

Our project is a continuation of Team P15571's Sunspot Radio Telescope project, requisitioned by the Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Sciences, abbreviated as ASRAS. A sunspot radio telescope, or solar spectrograph, is not a "telescope" in the traditional sense - it measures the radio frequency emissions coming from the Sun, specifically those coming from sunspots. Sunspots are massive dark spots on the Sun’s surface that are prone to emitting large quantities of radiation, for reasons not fully understood. In conjunction with another sunspot astronomy team in Zurich, Switzerland, ASRAS recently realized that there are no solar spectrographs in the Northeastern United States. Our project is intended to clear up that blind spot, and provide ASRAS and Zurich astronomers as well as student researchers with the ability to study these phenomena from the unique vantage point of the Northeastern US.

The added functionalities of our project will include Internet capability, to allow for the remote and autonomous operation of the solar spectrograph. Data will be constantly collected from the device, and sent to a server in Zurich for storage. The addition of TeamViewer software will allow for students to analyze the data. New hardware will also be added to the telescope, such as a feed-horn antenna, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), a low noise amplifier, and a remote calibrating antenna device will also be incorporated into the final design.

Project Background

The study of sunspots is of particular interest to astronomers, as a sunspot's emergence causes an emission of large quantities of radiation. As such, an emerging method to measure the qualities of sunspots is the use of radio telescopes - these telescopes can detect the radio frequencies that sunspots emit. It is possible to use imaging techniques to translate the RF radiation obtained from sunspots to other formats better understand their behavior. This is the basis of the Sunspot Radio Telescope.


Stakeholder Position
Martin Pepe ASRAS Representative
MSD Team System Developers
Rochester Institute of Technology MSD Sponsor
Farash Foundation Sponsor
Frontier Communications Sponsor

Use Cases

1. Data Acquisition and Transmission http://edge.rit.edu/edge/P17571/public/Problem%20Definition%20Documents/Use_Case_Data_Acquisition_Transmission.JPG

2. Error Checking


3. UPS Power Loss https://edge.rit.edu/edge/P17571/public/Problem%20Definition%20Documents/Use_Case_UPS_Power_Loss.JPG

Project Goals and Key Deliverables

Customer Requirements (Needs)


The working Customer Requirements document can be found here: Customer Requirements.xlsx

Engineering Requirements (Metrics & Specifications)


The working Engineering Requirements document can be found here: Engineering Requirements.xlsx

House of Quality


The working House of Quality document can be found here: House of Quality.xlsx



1. Data Acquisition and Controls Benchmark


2. Uninterruptable Power Supply Benchmark



Risk ID Category Risk Item Effect Cause Likelihood, L (1-9, 9=most likely) Severity, S (1-9, 9=Worst) Importance, L*S Action to Minimize Risk Owner
R1 Technical Improper feedhorn installation Feedhorn may have loose mounting or be unable to be assembled. Heating or cooling during drilling. 1 3 3 "Use heat sink and lubricant during feedhorn installation" "Mechanical Engineer"
R2 Technical Unreliable internet connection to Zurich Packets of information could be dropped Severe thunder storms or overcast weather 3 1 3 "Provide data backup until Zurich server confirms reception" "Computer Engineer"
R3 Technical Dish may be too heavy for motors/actuators Tracking functionality is lost, manual repairs required Ice buildup, power depletion, errors in measurements 2 2 4 "Provide flags and warnings to warn users of imminent disruption" "Computer Engineer"
R4 Technical File transfer system error Zurich server receives incomplete data "High frequency of power interrupts beyond design of UPS" 1 2 2 "Provide data backup until Zurich server confirms reception" "Computer Engineer"
R5 Technical Auto-calibration error Incorrect data analysis, manual repairs required Drift of control systems over time 2 3 6 "Provide recurring updates to autonomous calibration results" "Computer Engineer"
R6 Technical TeamViewer software error Remote operation made difficult or impossible Incorrect data structures and / or program speed 3 1 3 Use cross-platform coding techniques "Computer Engineer"
R7 Technical UPS may not provide correct AC output Leakage currents result in shorter than expected uninterruptable time Unexpected device parasitics 1 2 2 Test output of UPS prior to integration "Electrical Engineer"
R8 Technical RadioEyes/LabView incompatibility Additional time required for integration solution Incorrect data structures and / or program speed 1 2 2 Use cross-platform coding techniques "Computer Engineer"
R9 Technical "Feedhorn selection may carry unexpected collaterals (integration)" RX levels may become inefficient for extraction from raw signal Mismatching impedance and frequency response 2 2 4 Perform extensive testing on feed/dish assembly "Electrical Engineer"
R10 Technical eCALLISTO software error Data may be corrupted or incorrect; Zurich may not recieve data at all Improper program setup / unforeseen program error 1 2 2 "Perform extensive software testing and provide data backup" "Computer Engineer"
R11 Technical Internal magnetic interference within subsystems May cause errors in computer operation or other subsystem operation "Improper magnetic shielding on power lines near vulnerable systems" 1 2 2 "Isolate magnetic interference, or place wiring more carefully" "Electrical Engineer"
R12 Technical Improper power management One or more subsystems failing due to internal power loss Power delivery system insufficient to meet power needs 1 3 3 Perform extensive power system simulations "Electrical Engineer"
R13 Technical Internal subsystem overheating Damage to one or more subsystems Improper cooling systems or lack of temperature sensor 2 3 6 Place temperature sensors in overheat locations "Mechanical Engineer"
R14 Resource Scarcity of integration and/or testing facilities Project receives unexpected delays waiting for facilities Primary facilities are 1 hour away. 2 1 2 "Establish carpools and overlap schedules to ensure effective use of lab" All
R15 Resource Insufficient budget to meet all project requirements May need to take performance hits to accomodate cheaper budget Limited funds (~$500) 3 1 3 "Design and build where possible" All
R16 Resource Destruction of "Suntracker" project hardware Loss of unique designed hardware, project delays Incorrect assumptions about input levels and tolerances 1 3 3 "Implement strict guidelines for interacting with unique hardware" All
R17 Resource Inadequate space to assemble and test Team may not be able to prove that the project works "Necessary space or devices not easily available" 1 3 3 Ensure that proper space or devices are reserved well in advance All
R18 Resource Theft of system components Irreplaceable components may be lost Improper storage of materials 1 3 3 Lock physical project materials in a locker All
R19 Resource Insufficient backup data storage "Zurich server may fail to recieve data" Insufficient or nonexistant backup data storage 2 2 4 "Ensure that a minimum amount of backup data storage is available" "Computer Engineer"
R20 Resource Dr. Pepe retires during project design or build phases Project will be more difficult to complete without guidance from sponsor Dr. Pepe retires 1 2 2 "Obtain guidance from faculty advisors; avoid relying solely on Dr. Pepe" All
R21 Resource Insufficient manufacturing tools available One or more subsystem additions may not be able to be completed Limited budget and/or resources of RIT or sponsors 1 2 2 "Prioritize subsystems based on accessibility" All
R23 Safety Team member injury during construction Slowed rate of project work while team member recovers "Improper safety measures taken during construction and use" 1 2 2 "Observe proper safety rules during device construction and operation" All
R24 "Environmental/Social" Other unwanted data could be intercepted Zurich server recieves incorrect data Improper selection of device reciever frequency 1 2 2 "Observe proper FCC rules and regulations" "Computer Engineer"
R25 "Environmental/Social" Transmission of RF data could cause interference "Remote operation difficulty, conflict with TV/radio stations" Improper selection of device transmittal frequency 1 2 2 "Observe proper FCC rules and regulations" "Computer Engineer"
R26 "Environmental/Social" Remote log-in to unit may pose security threat "Sensitive data may restrict remote login" Malicious actor obtaining password/login information 1 3 3 "Ensure strict security in regard to username/ password information" All

The working Risk Management document can be found here: Risk Management.xlsx

Design Review Materials

The PowerPoint presentation of the Design Review can be found here: Problem Statement Presentation.ppt

Plans for next phase


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