New Developments

The VLBA Sensitivity Upgrade project is now complete, with the VLBA's original observing system having been decommissioned at the end of 2013.

The Sensitivity Upgrade project traced its origins to a two-year internal NRAO study of the scientific goals (Romney 1999; VLBA Sensitivity Upgrade Memo # 2) and the derived technical requirements (Romney 2000; VLBA Sensitivity Upgrade Memo # 3), for an upgrade of the VLBA. These concepts were subsequently cited among the initial steps recommended in Phase II of the VLBI Future Committee report "Mapping the Future of VLBI Science in the U.S." (Taylor, Lonsdale, et al. 2004; VLBA Sensitivity Upgrade Memo # 4), upon which the initial Sensitivity Upgrade proposal (Walker et al. 2007; VLBA Sensitivity Upgrade Memo # 15) was based. Funding to begin implementation of these goals became available in 2007.

The Sensitivity Upgrade instrumentation now in full operational use addresses, finally, many of the VLBI Future Committee recommendations. Initially the achieved maximum recording rate was limited to 2 Gigabits/sec (Gbps), rather than the desired minimum 4-Gbps capability. However, with the roll-out of the new Mark 6 recorders being complete, 4-Gbps is now achievable with the potential of 16-Gbps in the future (currently limited by available IF bandwidth). The 2-Gbps and the 4-Gbps rates, corresponding to continuum bandwidths of 256 and 512 MHz per polarization, respectively, are 16- and 32-fold increase over the standard "sustainable rate" at which the VLBA operated for many early years.

Overviews of the new instrumentation are presented in this document in ROACH Digital Backend and Mark 6 Recorder. More detailed information is available in the Sensitivity Upgrade memo series. Questions can be submitted via the NRAO Helpdesk.