Over two separate weeks in September and October, two teams of scientists and engineers traveled to the CTAO-North site in La Palma, Spain, to conduct pivotal tests of the Array Control and Data Acquisition (ACADA) system on the LST-1, the prototype of the Large-Sized Telescope. ACADA will be the central software in charge of operating the CTAO’s two arrays of telescopes in La Palma and in Chile. These tests are instrumental in assessing the software’s functionality on an individual telescope, a prerequisite for extending its application to a broader range. After almost two years of preparations by the ACADA team in cooperation with the LST Collaboration, the integration campaign and its successful outcome marked a significant milestone for the development of ACADA.


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Over several months, the ACADA integration and testing campaign was orchestrated with a specific objective: to validate the seamless integration of the software with the LST-1. The two testing missions focused on establishing flawless bidirectional communication between ACADA and the telescope, enabling functions such as remote commands for the LST-1’s movement or real-time data analysis. Additionally, the system was tested under unpredictable scenarios like simulating alerts from a cosmic source’s transient activity, which requires a swift response from the joint ACADA/LST-1 system.


Igor Oya, ACADA Coordinator, explained the rationale behind the separate testing missions: “The initial phase concentrated on individual tasks, such as ACADA’s ability to make the LST-1 move, monitor its status or comprehend the data coming from the telescope. The second phase was an ‘end-to-end’ test to demonstrate that the system could perform standard operations for a full night of observation.”


Results from the campaign yielded positive outcomes that confirm the software’s ability to execute critical tasks. On the first day of observations, the team successfully detected the Crab Nebula, which is the “standard candle” for instruments in gamma-ray astronomy.


“This is a very important step for everyone involved in the CTAO,” says Daniel Mazin, LST-1 Programme Manager. “It is a big step that the ACADA software development is meeting the real-life, the telescope here in La Palma, so we can see how the different software parts work together to operate this telescope and take scientific data.”


While celebrating these accomplishments, the teams also identified areas for optimization and potential enhancements. “We will revisit and rectify minor issues and explore improvements,” says Bernhard López, ACADA Deputy Coordinator. “Next year, we will develop and test updated versions of ACADA, collaborating with different teams to create a robust system capable of managing not only one telescope, but a full array of telescopes simultaneously.”


The testing campaign exemplified the collaborative efforts between the LST Collaboration and the ACADA team, which is made up of around 60 people from the CTAO and its partners from nine institutes from six countries: Centrum Astronomicznego im. Mikołaja Kopernika (CAMK), Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), Ciències de l’Espai/ Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (ICE/CSIC), Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF), Laboratoire d’Annecy de Physique des Particules (LAPP), Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik (MPIK), University of Geneva, University of Perugia and University of Potsdam.


Tune into the CTAO’s social media channels in 2024 for a series of videos that will take a closer look at the importance of ACADA to the Observatory and the individuals driving its success!

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Major Telescope Operations Milestone Achieved with ACADA Software Integration - CTAO