LFI design, qualification, and performance

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The Planck-LFI instrument is an array of 11 radiometric receivers in the Ka, Q and V bands, with centre frequencies close to 30, 44 and 70 GHz. The exact centre frequencies for each receiver are reported in #planck2011-1-4 [[http://www.rssd.esa.int/doc_fetch.php?id=3135856&page=1 Planck early results.

The heart of the LFI instrument is a compact, multi-frequency array of differential receivers with ultra-low-noise amplifiers based on cryogenic indium phosphide (InP) high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs). To minimise power dissipation in the focal plane unit, which is cooled to 20 K, the radiometers are split into two subassemblies connected by a set of waveguides, as shown in figure 1, left panel.

Figure 1. Left Panel: the LFI instrument with main thermal stages, focal plane, waveguides and sorption cooler piping highlighted. Right Panel: Labelling of feed horns on the LFI focal plane.

The LFI horns are situated in a ring around the HFI, see figure 1 – right panel. Each horn collects radiation from the telescope and feeds it to one or more detectors. The radiometer design is driven by the need to suppress 1/f-type noise induced by gain and noise temperature fluctuations in the amplifiers, which would be unacceptably high for a simple total power system. A differential pseudo-correlation scheme is adopted, in which signals from the sky and from a black-body reference load are combined by a hybrid coupler, amplified in two independent amplifier chains, and separated out by a second hybrid (figure 2). The sky and the reference load power can then be measured and differenced. Since the reference signal has been subject to the same gain variations in the two amplifier chains as the sky signal, the true sky power can be recovered. Insensitivity to fluctuations in the back-end amplifiers and detectors is realized by switching phase shifters at ∼8 kHz synchronously in each amplifier chain. The rejection of 1/f noise as well as the immunity to other systematic effects is optimised if the two input signals are nearly equal. For this reason the reference loads are cooled to ∼4 K by mounting them on the 4-K structure of the HFI. In addition, the effect of the residual offset (< 2 K in nominal conditions) is reduced by introducing a gain modulation factor in the on-board processing to balance the output signal (#Seiffert2002). The differencing receiver greatly improves the stability of the measured signal.

Figure 2. Schematic of the LFI front-end radiometer. The front-end unit is located at the focus of the Planck telescope, and comprises: dual profiled corrugated feed horns; low-loss (∼0.2 dB), wide-band (> 20%) ortho-mode transducers; and radiometer front-end modules with hybrids, cryogenic low noise amplifiers, and phase switches.

First assessment of the Low Frequency Instrument in-flight performance]]; for simplicity, here we will refer to the three channels using their nominal centre frequency. A detailed description of the LFI instrument is given in #bersanelli2010 [Planck pre-launch status: Design and description of the Low Frequency Instrument], and references therein.

The LFI description[edit]

The LFI instrument (see figure 1 above) consists of a 20 K focal plane unit hosting the corrugated feed horns, the orthomode transducers (OMTs) and the receiver front-end modules (FEMs). Forty four composite waveguides #darcangelo2009a are interfaced with three conical thermal shields and connect the front-end modules to the warm (~300 K) back-end unit (BEU) containing a further radio frequency amplification stage, detector diodes and all the electronics for data acquisition and bias supply.

Best LFI noise performance is obtained with receivers based on InP High Electron Mobility Transistor (HEMT) low noise amplifiers (LNAs) for minimal power dissipation and best performance. To further minimise power consumption in the focal plane, the radiometers are split into two sub-assemblies connected by waveguides, one located at the telescope focal area, the other on the 300 K portion of the Planck satellite. These design features allow the entire front-end LNAs dissipation to be <0.55 W, which enables the active cooling of the focal assembly. This is achieved with a vibration-less hydrogen sorption cooler, which also provides 18 K pre-cooling to the HFI helium J-T cooler. Two sorption cooler units are included in the flight hardware.

As shown schematically in Figure 3 below, the LFI consists of the following subsystems:

  • Radiometer Array Assembly (RAA)
  • Sorption Cooler Subsystem (SCS)
  • Radiometer Electronics Box Assembly (REBA)

The RAA includes the Front End Unit (FEU) and the Back End Unit (BEU), connected via waveguides. The FEU is located at the focus of the telescope, as one component of the joint LFI/HFI focal assembly (see sections below). The BEU is mounted on the top of the Planck service module (SVM). The REBA (Radiometer Electronics Box Assembly) and the warm parts of the Sorption Cooler System (SCS) are located on one of the lateral panels of the SVM. The FEU and the Sorption Cooler Compressor (SCC) are connected by concentric stainless steel tubes. The smaller tube carries hydrogen at ∼60 atmospheres from the cooler compressors to the FEU, while the larger tube returns the hydrogen at ∼0.3 atmospheres. These units are described in following sections and in the LFI Appendix, the SCS is described in details in the Sorption Cooler section. All LFI units are linked together by the LFI harness, which also connects to the spacecraft interface.

Figure 3. Block Diagram of LFI

Radiometer Array Assembly (RAA)[edit]

The Radiometer Array Assembly (RAA) consists of two main units (the front end unit, FPU and the Back End Unit, BEU), connected by a set of waveguides. The Focal Plane Unit (FPU) is the heart of the LFI instrument and it contains the feed array and associated orthomode transducers (OMTs) and FEMs, all cooled to 20 K by the sorption cooler. The FPU comprises a set of 11 modules, which are mounted on a mechanical support which meets the thermo-mechanical requirements of the instrument and adds thermal inertia. The BEU comprises the radiometer Back End Modules (BEM) and the Data Acquisition Electronics (DAE), which are connected by an internal harness. The HFI Unit is located inside the LFI FPU and supported by the LFI structure. The LFI structure gives the mechanical and thermal interface to the HFI unit with the proper stiffness and thermal de-coupling. The LFI structure also guarantees the proper alignment of the HFI detector with the telescope focal plane.

The time scale of the stability of the receiver is driven by the 1 rpm rotation speed of the spacecraft, which requires a very low 1/f-noise or gain variation of the low noise amplifiers and other components. The LFI uses a pseudo-correlation receiver concept (Figure 4 below). This radiometer concept is chosen to maximise the stability of the instrument by reducing the effect of non-white noise generated in the radiometer itself. In this scheme, the difference between the inputs to each of the chains (the signal from the telescope and that from a reference black body respectively) is continuously being observed. To remove the effect of instability in the back-end amplifiers and detector diodes, it is necessary to switch the signal detected at the diodes at high rate. The signals from the sky and from a reference load are combined by a hybrid coupler, amplified in two independent amplifier chains, and separated out by another hybrid. The sky and the reference load power can then be measured and differenced. Since the reference signal has been subject to the same gain variations in the two amplifier chains as the sky signal, the true sky power can be recovered. The differencing receiver greatly improves the stability if the two input signals are almost equal, at a cost of a factor of [math]\sqrt 2 \; [/math] in sensitivity compared to a perfectly stable total-power radiometer with the same noise temperature and bandwidth. This radiometer concept is capable of greatly reducing the knee frequency. We define as Radiometer Chain Assembly (RCA, see Figure 4) each functional unit from the feed horn to the BEM. The RAA therefore includes a set of 11 RCAs and the Data Acquisition Electronics (see also Figure 3 above), all mounted on a suitable mechanical structure. Although there are differences in the details of the radiometer chains at different frequencies, their overall configuration is similar, and a general description of its design is provided in this section. Planck LFI has 11 Radiometer Chain Assembly (RCA). Each RCA is constituted by feed horn and FEM in the FEU (at 20 K), BEM (at 300 K) in the BEU and four waveguides that connect each FEM-BEM couple. The frequency distribution of the RCA is the following:

  • 2 RCAs at 30 GHz;
  • 3 RCAs at 44 GHz;
  • 6 RCAs at 70 GHz.
Figure 4. A complete RCA from feed-horn to analog voltage output. The insets show the OMT, the details of the 20 K pseudo-correlator and of the back-end radio-frequency amplification, low-pass filtering, detection and DC amplification.

Radiometer Chain Assembly (RCA)[edit]

Every RCA consists of two radiometers, each feeding two diode detectors (see Figure 4 above), for a total of 44 detectors. The 11 RCAs are labelled by a numbers from 18 to 28 as outlined in Figure 1, right panel.

Figure 4 provides a more detailed description of each radiometric receiver. In each RCA, the two perpendicular linear polarisation components split by the OMT propagate through two independent pseudo-correlation differential radiometers, labelled as M or S depending on the arm of the OMT they are connected to (Main or Side, see lower-left inset of Figure 4).

In each radiometer the sky signal coming from the OMT output is continuously compared with a stable 4 K blackbody reference load mounted on the external shield of the HFI 4 K box #valenziano2009. After being summed by a first hybrid coupler, the two signals are amplified by ~30 dB, see upper-left inset of Figure 4. The amplifiers were selected for best operation at low drain voltages and for gain and phase match between paired radiometer legs, which is crucial for good balance. Each amplifier is labelled with codes 1, 2 so that the four outputs of the LNAs can be named with the sequence: M1, M2 (radiometer M) and S1, S2 (radiometer S). Tight mass and power constraints called for a simple design of the Data Acquisition Electronics (DAE) box so that power bias lines were divided into five common-grounded power groups with no bias voltage readouts; only the total drain current flowing through the front-end amplifiers is measured and is available to the house-keeping telemetry (this design has important implications for front-end bias tuning, which depends critically on the satellite electrical and thermal configuration and was repeated at all integration stages, during on-ground and in-flight satellite tests). A phase shift alternating between [math] 0^\circ \; [/math] and [math]180^\circ \; [/math] at the frequency of 4096 Hz is applied in one of the two amplification chains and then a second hybrid coupler separates back the sky and reference load components that are further amplified and detected in the warm BEU, with a voltage output ranging from -2.5 V to +2.5 V.

Each radiometer has two output diodes which are labelled with binary codes 00, 01 (radiometer M) and 10, 11 (radiometer S), so that the four outputs of each radiometric chain can be named with the sequence: M-00, M-01, S-10, S-11.

After detection, an analog circuit in the DAE box removes a programmable offset in order to obtain a nearly null DC output voltage and a programmable gain is applied to increase the signal dynamics and optimally exploit the ADC input range. After the ADC, data are digitally down-sampled, re-quantised and compressed in the REBA according to a scheme described in #herreros2009, maris2009, before preparing telemetry packets. On ground, telemetry packets are converted to sky and reference load time ordered data after calibrating the ADU samples into volt considering the applied offset and gain factors.

To first order, the mean differential power output for each of the four receiver diodes can be written as follows #seiffert2002, mennella2003, bersanelli2010 [Planck pre-launch status: Design and description of the Low Frequency Instrument]:

[math] \label{eq:power} P_{\rm out}^{\rm diode} = a\, G_{\rm tot}\,k\,\beta \left[ T_{\rm sky} + T_{\rm noise} - r\left( T_{\rm ref} + T_{\rm noise}\right) \right] [/math]

where [math]G_{\rm tot} \;[/math] is the total gain, [math]k \;[/math] is the Boltzmann constant, [math]\beta \;[/math] the receiver bandwidth and [math]a \;[/math] is the diode constant. [math]T_{\rm sky} \;[/math] and [math]T_{\rm ref}\; [/math] are the average sky and reference load antenna temperatures at the inputs of the first hybrid and [math]T_{\rm noise} \;[/math] is the receiver noise temperature.

The gain modulation factor #mennella2003, planck2011-1-6 [Planck early results. The Low Frequency Instrument data processing], [math]r[/math], is defined by:

[math] \label{eq:erre1} r = \frac{T_{\rm sky} + T_{\rm noise}}{T_{\rm ref} + T_{\rm noise}} [/math]

and is used to balance (in software) the temperature offset between the sky and reference load signals and minimise the residual 1/[math]f \;[/math] noise in the differential datastream. This parameter is calculated from the average uncalibrated total power data using the relationship:

[math] \label{eq:erre2} r = \langle V_{\rm sky} \rangle/ \langle V_{\rm ref}\rangle, [/math]

where [math]\lt V_{\rm sky}\gt \;[/math] and [math]\lt V_{\rm ref}\gt \;[/math] are the average sky and reference voltages calculated in a defined time range. The white noise spectral density at the output of each diode is essentially independent from the reference-load absolute temperature and is given by:

[math] \label{eq:dt1} \Delta T_0^{\rm diode} = \frac{2\,(T_{\rm sky}+T_{\rm noise})}{\sqrt{\beta}}. [/math]

If the front-end components are not perfectly balanced, then the separation of the sky and reference load signals after the second hybrid is not perfect and the outputs are mixed. First-order deviations in white noise sensitivity from the ideal behaviour are caused mainly by noise temperature and phase-switch amplitude mismatches. Following the notation used in #seiffert2002, we define [math]\epsilon_{Tn} \; [/math], the imbalance in front end noise temperature, and [math]\epsilon_{A1} \; [/math] and [math] \epsilon_{A2} \;[/math] , the imbalance in signal attenuation in the two states of the phase switch. Equation above for the two diodes of a slightly imbalanced radiometer then becomes

[math] \label{eq:dt2} (\Delta T^{diode} )^2 ≈ (\Delta T_0^{diode})^2 ( 1± \frac{\epsilon_{A1}- \epsilon_{A2}}{2} + \alpha \epsilon_{Tn}) [/math]

which is identical for the two diodes apart from the sign of the term [math](\epsilon_{A1} − \epsilon_{A2} )/2[/math], representing the phase switch amplitude imbalance. This indicates that the isolation loss caused by this imbalance generates an anti-correlation between the white noise levels of the single-diode data streams. For this reason, the LFI scientific data streams are obtained by averaging the voltage outputs from the two diodes in each radiometer:

[math] \label{eq:v1} V^{rad}_{out} = w_1 V^{diode\,1}_{out} +w_2 V^{diode\,2}_{out} [/math]

where [math]w_1 [/math] and [math]w_2[/math] are inverse-variance weights calculated from the data as discussed in #planck2011-1-6. This way, the diode-diode anti-correlation is cancelled, and the radiometer white noise becomes

[math] \label{eq:dt3} \Delta T^{rad} ≈ \frac{ T_0^{diode}}{\sqrt{2}} (1+\alpha \epsilon_{Tn})^{1/2} [/math]

In Equations above, [math]\epsilon ≪ 1[/math], while [math] \alpha [/math] is a term [math]\simeq 1 [/math] given by:

[math] \label{eq:alpha} \alpha = \frac{ T_{noise} (2 \; T_{noise} + T_{sky} + T_{ref} } {2 (T_{sky} + T_{noise} )(T_{ref} + T_{noise})} [/math]

See Diode Combination section for the details of the diode combination procedure.

In Figure 5 below we show a close-up of the two front end modules of an RCA with the four phase switches which are labelled with the four letters A and B (main arm), C and D (side arm). Each phase switch is characterised by two states: state 0 (no phase shift applied to the incoming wave) and state 1 ([math]180^\circ[/math] phase shift applied) and can either stay fixed in a state or switch at 4 kHz between the two states.

Phase switches are clocked and biased by the DAE and their configuration can be programmed via telecommand. In order to simplify the instrument electronics, phase switches are configured and operated in pairs: A/C and B/D. This means that if phase switches A and C are switching at 4 kHz then B and D are fixed both in the same state (either 0 or 1). This simplification, required during the design phase to comply with mass and power budgets, comes at the price of loosing some setup redundancy.

Figure 5. Close-up of the two front-end modules of an RCA. There are four phase switches, labelled A, B, C and D. Each switch can be fixed in one of its two positions (labelled as 0, 1) or switch at 4 kHz between 0 and 1. Phase switches are clocked and biased by the DAE in pairs: A/C and B/D.

Feed Horns (FH)[edit]

Dual profiled corrugated horns have been selected at all LFI frequencies as the best design in terms of shape of the main lobe, level of the side lobes, control of the phase centre, and compactness. Details of the design, flight model and tests of Planck-LFI feed horns can be found in #villa2009 and in the corresponding Appendix section.

OrthoMode Transducers (OMT)[edit]

The Ortho–Mode Transducer (OMTs) separates the radiation collected by the feed horn in two orthogonal polarisation components. It consists of a circular to square waveguide transition (directly connected to the FH), a square waveguide section and two separate rectangular waveguide (the through and side arms, which separate and pick up the orthogonal polarisation, connected with the FEU). On the side arms is always present a 90 degrees bend, while a twist is also necessary on the main (30 and 44 GHz) and side (70 GHz) arm, in order to math the FEU polarisation.

The details of the flight models and measurements of the Planck LFI ortho-mode transducers can be found in #darcangelo2009b and in the corresponding Appendix section.

Front End Modules (FEM)[edit]

Front End Modules are located in the FPU, just in cascade of the Feed Horn and the Ortho Mode Transducers. 70 GHz FEMs are mounted onto the inner wall of the mainframe (the wall facing HFI instrument) from the HFI side. 44 and 30 GHz FEMs are inserted into the mainframe from the WG side and fixed to the bottom plate. Screws to bottom plate are inserted from WG side. The LFI FEMs are the first active stage of amplification of the radiometer chain. Each FEM contains four amplification paths. Each path is composed by several cascaded LNAs followed by a phase switch. Two passive hybrids, at the input and output of the FEM, are used to mix couples of signals of the same radiometer (see Figure 5). This makes the instabilities of each chain to be applied to both the sky and load signals.

The passive hybrid coupler (magic-tee) combines the signals from the sky and cold load with a fixed phase offset of either 90 deg or 180 deg between them. It has a 20% bandwidth, low loss, and amplitude balance needed at the output to ensure adequate signal isolation.

The details of the design, development and verification of the 70 GHz front-end modules for the Planck Low Frequency Instrument can be found in #varis2009 and in the corresponding Appendix section.


The LFI Front End Unit (FEU) is connected to the Back End Unit (BEU) by 44 rectangular waveguides approximately 1.5-2.0 meter long. Each waveguide exhibits low voltage standing wave ratio, low thermal conductivity, low insertion loss, and low mass. In addition, the waveguide path shall permit the LFI/HFI integration and the electrical bonding between FPU and BEU. Because of the Focal Plane Unit arrangement, the waveguides are in general twisted and bended in different planes and with different angles, depending on the particular waveguide. From the thermal point of view the waveguides have to connect 2 systems (BEM and FEM) that are at very different temperatures. At BEM level the waveguides are at a temperature of 300K while at FEM level the temperature is 20K. The waveguides have to reduce the thermal flow from 300K to 20K. In Figure 1 (left panel) a conceptual sketch of the LFI configuration is shown.

Details of the Planck-LFI flight model of the composite waveguides can be found in #darcangelo2009a and in the corresponding Appendix section.

Back End Modules (BEM)[edit]

The BEMs are composed by four identical channels each made of Low Noise Amplifiers (LNA), RF Band Pass Filter, RF to DC diode detector and DC amplifiers. The FEM output signals are connected by waveguide from the Focal Plane Unit (FPU) assembly to the Back End Modules (BEM’s) housed adjacent to the Data Acquisition Electronics (DAE) assembly. To maintain compatibility with the FEM’s, each BEM accommodates four receiver channels from the four waveguide outputs of each FEM. The BEM internal signal routes are not cross coupled and can be regarded as four identical parallel circuits. Each BEM is constructed as two mirror halves. The two amplifier/detector assemblies each contain two amplifier/detector circuits. Each is supplied from one of a pair of printed circuit boards which also house two DC output amplifiers.

The details of the design, development and verification of the 30 and 44 GHz back-end modules for the Planck Low Frequency Instrument can be found in #artal2009. The details of the design, development and verification of the 70 GHz back-end modules for the Planck Low Frequency Instrument can be found in #varis2009. Details are reported also in the corresponding Appendix section.

4K Load[edit]

The purpose of the 4 K reference load is to provide the radiometer with a stable reference signal. Reducing the input offset (the radiometric temperature difference between the sky and the reference load) reduces the minimum achievable radiometer 1/f noise knee frequency for a given amplifier fluctuation spectrum. A reference load temperature that matches the sky temperature (approximately 2.7 K) would be ideal.

Details of the design, characteristics and performance of the LFI 4K reference load units are given in #valenziano2009 and in the corresponding section of the LFI Appendix.

LFI Naming Convention[edit]

The naming of all the LFI elements is described in the previous sections but here is summarized again for clarity.

The 11 RCAs are labelled by a numbers from 18 to 28 as outlined in Figure 1, right panel. In each RCA, the two perpendicular linear polarisation components are labelled as M or S according to the arm of the OMT they are connected to (Main or Side, see lower-left inset of Figure 4).

Each front-end amplifier (see upper-left inset of Figure 4) is labelled with codes 1, 2 so that the four outputs of the FEM LNAs can be named with the sequence: M1, M2 (radiometer M) and S1, S2 (radiometer S).

Each radiometer has two output diodes (see upper-right inset of Figure 4) which are labelled with binary codes 00, 01 (radiometer M) and 10, 11 (radiometer S), so that the four outputs of each radiometric chain can be named with the sequence: M-00, M-01, S-10, S-11.


The Radiometer Electronics Box Assembly (REBA) is the electronic box in charge of processing the digitized scientific data and to manage the overall instrument. It is also in charge of the communication with the spacecraft. There are two REBA boxes, one nominal and one redundant. The redundancy concept is cold, which means that both boxes are never ON at the same time; the operation of each unit shall be managed by the spacecraft switching-on the corresponding unit. The REBA ASW (Application SoftWare) is the same in each REBA box.

A detailed description of the Planck LFI REBA can be found in #herreros2009 and in the corresponding section of the LFI Appendix.

Instrument On-board Software[edit]

The REBA software is the on board software of LFI. It is installed in the two computing subunits of REBA: the DPU (Digital Processing Unit), responsible of the control and monitoring of the instrument and the interface with the spacecraft and; the SPU (Signal Processing Unit), responsible of the data reduction and compression.

Details can be found in the corresponding section of the LFI Appendix.

Reduction and Compression of Science Data[edit]

To asses stability against 1/f noise, the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI) on-board the Planck mission will acquire data at a rate much higher than the data rate allowed by the science telemetry bandwidth of 35.5 kbps. The data are processed by an on-board pipeline, followed on-ground by a decoding and reconstruction step, to reduce the volume of data to a level compatible with the bandwidth while minimizing the loss of information. The on-board processing of the scientific data used by Planck/LFI to fit the allowed data-rate is an intrinsically lossy process which distorts the signal in a manner which depends on a set of five free parameters ([math] N_{aver}, r_1, r_2, q, O \,[/math]) for each of the 44 LFI detectors. A brief description of the characteristics of this algorithm and the level of distortion introduced by the on-board processing as a function of these parameters can be found in the corresponding section of the LFI Appendix, a full description of the Planck LFI on-board data handling system and the tuning and optimization method of the on-board processing chain in #maris2009.

The strategy adopted to fit into the bandwidth relies on three on-board processing steps: downsampling, pre-processing the data to ensure loss-less compression, and loss-less compression itself. To demonstrate these steps, a model of the input signal shall be used. It has to be noted that while the compression is loss-less, the pre-processing is not, due to the need to rescale the data and convert them in integers, (a process named data re-quantization). However, the whole strategy is designed to asses a strict control of the way in which lossy operations are done, of the amount of information loss in order to asses optimal compression rate with minimal information loss.

Instrument Operations[edit]

LFI Operational Modes[edit]

The operations of the LFI are designed to be automatic and require little if any intervention from the ground. A small amount of commands is required for operating the instrument and eventually for diagnostic and reconfiguration purposes. Each sky survey is conducted by the LFI with the instrument in the Normal Operations Mode mode. No deployable elements, or mechanically moving parts are included in the instrument. The scanning of the sky is achieved by progressive repointing of the satellite spin axis, with the Sun direction always within a cone 10 degrees from the spin axis. Within the Normal Science Mode the instrument can be configured in order to fit with different science or diagnostic needs without changing the power consumption and thus the temperature in the FPU. Changes in power consumption in the FPU are minimised and should occur only in the case that failures in the radiometers that could create interference problems require an RCA to be switched off. Power adjustments on the first stage of the HEMT amplifiers which are contemplated, require extremely small power level variations.

A brief summary of the LFI Operational Modes and the transitions between them is given in the corresponding section of the LFI Appendix.

In-flight Operations[edit]




LFI Ground Tests[edit]

During its development, the LFI flight model was calibrated and tested at various integration levels from sub-systems #davis2009 to individual integrated receivers #villa2010 [[Planck pre-launch status: Calibration of the Low Frequency Instrument flight model radiometers] and the whole receiver array #mennella2010 [Planck pre-launch status: Low Frequency Instrument calibration and expected scientific performance]. In every campaign we performed tests according to the following classification:

  • Functionality tests, performed to verify the instrument functionality.
  • Tuning tests, to tune radiometer parameters (biases, DC electronics gain and offset, digital quantisation and compression) for optimal performance in flight-like thermal conditions.
  • Basic calibration and noise performance tests, to characterise instrument performance (photometric calibration, isolation, linearity, noise and stability) in tuned conditions.
  • Susceptibility tests, to characterise instrument susceptibility to thermal and electrical variations.

Where possible, the same tests were repeated in several test campaigns, in order to ensure enough redundancy and confidence in the instrument behaviour repeatability. A matrix showing the instrument parameters measured in the various test campaigns is provided in Table 1 of #mennella2010 [Planck pre-launch status: Low Frequency Instrument calibration and expected scientific performance].

The ground test campaign was developed in three main phases: cryogenic tests on the individual RCAs, cryogenic tests on the integrated receiver array (the so-called radiometer array assembly, RAA) and system-level tests after the integration of the LFI and HFI instruments onto the satellite. The first two phases were carried out at the Thales Alenia Space - Italia laboratories located in Vimodrone (Milano, Italy) (note that receiver tests on 70 GHz RCAs were carried out in Finlad, at Yilinen laboratories), system level tests (SLT) were conducted in a dedicated cryofacility at the Centre Spatiale de Liege (CSL) located in Liege (Belgium).

In Table 14 below we list the temperature of the main cold thermal stages during ground tests compared to in-flight nominal values. These values show that system-level tests were conducted in conditions that were as much as possible flight-representative, while results obtained during RCA and RAA tests needed to be extrapolated to flight conditions to allow comparison. Details about the RCA test campaign are discussed in #villa2010 [Planck pre-launch status: Calibration of the Low Frequency Instrument flight model radiometers] while the RAA tests and the extrapolation methods are presented in #mennella2010 [Planck pre-launch status: Low Frequency Instrument calibration and expected scientific performance].

Table 14. Temperatures of the main cold stages during the various ground test campaigns compared to in-flight nominal values
Temperature Nominal RCA tests RAA tests System-level
Sky ~ 3 K ≳ 8 K ≳ 18.5 K ~ 4 K
Ref. load ~ 4.5 K ≳ 8 K ≳ 18.5 K ~ 4.5 K
Front-end unit ~ 20 K ~ 20 K ~ 26 K ~ 20 K

During the various test campaigns the instrument was switched off and moved several times in a time period of about three years. A series of functional tests were always repeated at each location and also in flight, in order to verify the instrument functionality and the response repeatability. No failures or major problems have been identified due to transport and integration procedures.

The expected Planck LFI scientific performance, resulting mainly from cryogenic system level tests, are described in #mennella2010 [Planck pre-launch status: Low Frequency Instrument calibration and expected scientific performance].

LFI In-flight Calibration[edit]

The LFI Commissioning and Calibration and Performance Verification (CPV) phases started on June, [math]4^{\rm th} \;[/math] 2009 and lasted until August, [math]12^{\rm th} \;[/math] when Planck started scanning the sky in nominal mode. At the onset of CPV, the active cooling started when the radiating surfaces on the payload module reached their working temperatures (~50 K on the [math]3^{\rm rd} \;[/math] V-groove, and ~40 K on the reflectors) by passive cooling. This was achieved during the transfer phase. Nominal temperatures were achieved on July, [math]3^{\rm rd} \;[/math] 2009, when the dilution cooler temperature reached 0.1 K #planck2011-1-3, meinhold2009 [Planck early results. The thermal performance of Planck] . The cooldown of the HFI 4K stage (see Figure 5 below), was key during CPV for the LFI as it provided a variable input signal that was exploited during bias tuning.

The LFI Commissioning and CPV was carried out in four phases:

  • LFI switch on and basic functionality verification (Commissioning),
  • Tuning of front-end biases and back-end electronics (CPV),
  • Preliminary calibration tests (CPV),
  • Thermal tests (CPV).
Figure 10. Functional tests performed during CPV against timeline. Curves from thermal sensors monitoring the 4K stage and the FPU temperature are superimposed.

Details of the LFI Commissioning and CPV test campaign are given in #gregorio2013.

LFI Performance[edit]

Instrument Scientific Performance[edit]

Optical Parameters[edit]

The most accurate measurements of the LFI main beams have been made with Jupiter, the most powerful unresolved (to Planck) celestial source in the LFI frequency range. Since the LFI feed horns point to different positions on the sky, they detect the signal at different times. To map the beam, each sample in the selected timelines was projected in the [math] (u, \, v)[/math]-plane perpendicular to the nominal line-of-sight (LOS) of the telescope (and at 85◦ to the satellite spin axis). The [math] u[/math] and [math] v [/math] coordinates are defined in terms of the usual spherical coordinates [math] (θ, φ)[/math] :

[math] u = sinθ \, cosφ, [/math]
[math] v = sinθ \, sinφ. [/math]

To increase the signal-to-noise ratio, data were binned in an angular region of 2′ for the 70 GHz channels and 4′ for the 30 and 44 GHz channels. We recovered all beams down to −20 dB from the peak. An elliptical Gaussian was fit to each beam for both M and S radiometers. Differences between the M and S beams caused by optics and receiver non-idealities are inevitable at some level, but they appear to be well within the statistical uncertainties, and for the purposes of point-source extraction, the beams may be considered identical. For the details of the typical FWHM and ellipticity averaged over each frequency channel, refer to #planck2011-1-4 [Planck early results. First assessment of the Low Frequency Instrument in-flight performance]). Exhaustive details on all LFI beam parameters are presented in the LFI data processing section - Beams.

Photometric Calibration[edit]

Photometric calibration, i.e., conversion from voltage to antenna temperature, is performed for each radiometer after total power data have been cleaned of 1 Hz frequency spikes (see the LFI data processing section - Spikes Removal section and #planck2011-1-6 [Planck early results. The Low Frequency Instrument data processing]), and differenced. Here we report a brief overview of the photometric calibration, for the details see the LFI data processing section - Photometric Calibration.

Our calibrator is the well-known dipole signal induced by Earth and spacecraft motions with respect to the CMB rest frame. The largest calibration uncertainty comes from the presence of the Galaxy and of the CMB anisotropies in the measured signal. We therefore use an iterative calibration procedure in which the dipole is fitted and subtracted, producing a sky map that is then removed from the original data to enhance the dipole signal for the next iteration. Typically, convergence is obtained after a few tens of iterations.

In our current calibration model we use as calibration signal the sum of the solar dipole [math]\Delta T_{Sun}[/math] and the orbital dipole [math]\Delta T_{orb}[/math], which is the contribution from Planck’s orbital velocity around the Sun,

[math] \label{eq:cal1} \Delta T= ( \Delta T_{Sun} + \Delta T_{orb} ) sin \theta_{axis} [/math]

where [math]\theta_{axis}[/math] is the angle between the spacecraft axis and the overall dipole axis (solar + orbital). In this equation, the absolute calibration uncertainty is dominated by the uncertainty in [math]T_{Sun}[/math] = 3.355 mK ± 0.008 mK hinshaw2009, which is known to about 0.2%. The modulation of the orbital dipole by the Earth motion around the Sun is known with an uncertainty almost three orders of magnitude smaller; however, at least one complete Planck orbit is needed for its measurement. The accuracy of our current calibration can be estimated by taking into account two components: 1) the statistical uncertainty in the regions of weak dipole; and 2) the systematic uncertainty caused by neglecting gain fluctuations that occur on periods shorter than the smoothing window. In our calibration procedure the gain is estimated for every pointing period: if we call [math] G_i [/math] the gain estimate from the [math]i_{th}[/math] pointing period we have that the associated uncertainty is

[math] \label{eq:cal2} \delta G = \sqrt{\frac{ \Sigma_{i=1}^N (G_i-\lt G\gt )^2 }{N-1} } [/math]

where [math]N[/math] is the overall number of pointing and [math]\lt G\gt [/math] is the average of the [math]N[/math] gains. We then approximate the effect of the smoothing filter as an average over [math]M[/math] consecutive pointings, so that the overall uncertainty can be estimated as:

[math] \label{eq:cal3} \delta G |_{stat} = \frac{\delta G}{\sqrt{M}} = \frac{1}{\sqrt{M}} \sqrt{\frac{ \Sigma_{i=1}^N (G_i-\lt G\gt )^2 }{N-1} } [/math]

Noise Properties[edit]

The noise characteristics of the LFI datastreams are closely reproduced by a simple (white + [math]1/ f[/math] ) noise model,

[math] \label{eq:p1} P(f)= \sigma^2 (1+ (\frac{f}{f_{knee}})^\alpha ) [/math]

where [math]P( f )[/math] is the power spectrum and [math]α ≈ −1[/math]. In this model, noise properties are characterised by three parameters, the white noise limit [math]\sigma[/math], the knee frequency [math]f_{knee}[/math], and the exponent of the [math]1/ f[/math] component [math]\alpha[/math], also referred to as slope. Here we give noise performance estimates based on one year of operations, details of the analysis are given in LFI data processing section - Noise Estimation and in #planck2011-1-6, planck2011-1-4 [Planck early results. The Low Frequency Instrument data processing, Planck early results. First assessment of the Low Frequency Instrument in-flight performance].

Noise properties have been calculated following two different and complementary approaches: 1) fitting equation above to time-ordered data for each radiometer; and 2) building normalised noise maps by differencing data from the first half of the pointing period with data from the second half of the pointing period to remove the sky signal (“jackknife” data sets).

Typical uncertainties are ∼0.5% for the white noise, between 5 and 10% for the slope, and between 10 and 20% for the knee frequency.

White Noise Sensitivity[edit]

Details of the white noise sensitivity can be found in #planck2011-1-4 [Planck early results. First assessment of the Low Frequency Instrument in-flight performance].

Table 19 summarizes the sensitivity numbers calculated during the first year of operations using methods and procedures described in detail in #planck2011-1-6 [Planck early results. The Low Frequency Instrument data processing], compared with scientific requirements. The measured sensitivity is in very good agreement with pre-launch expectations. While the white noise moderately exceeds the design specification, this performance is fully in line with the LFI science objectives.

Table 19. White noise sensitivity of the LFI frequency channels compared with requirements.

Instrument Technical Performance[edit]

Spectral Response[edit]

The in-band receiver response has been thoroughly modelled and measured for all the LFI detectors during ground tests. The complete set of bandpass curves has been published in #zonca2009 where all the details of the LFI radiometer's spectral response are given. From each curve we have derived the effective centre frequency according to:

[math] \label{eq:spectr} \nu_0 = \frac{ \int_{\nu_{min}}^{\nu_{max}} \nu g(\nu) \; d \nu} {\int_{\nu_{min}}^{\nu_{max}} g(\nu)\; d\nu } [/math]

where [math] \Delta \nu = \nu_{max} − \nu_{min} \;[/math] is the receiver bandwidth and [math]g(\nu)\;[/math] is the bandpass response. Details about colour corrections, [math]C(\alpha)[/math], needed to derive the brightness temperature of a source with a power-law spectral index [math]\alpha[/math], are provided in #planck2011-1-6.

Some details are also given in the corresponding section of the LFI Appendix.

Bandpass Estimation[edit]

As detailed in #zonca2009, our most accurate method to measure the LFI bandpasses is based on measurements of individual components integrated into the LFI Advanced RF Model (LARFM) to yield a synthesised radiometer bandpass. The LARFM is a software tool based on the open-source Quasi Universal Circuit Simulator (QUCS). The measured frequency responses of the various subsystems (feed-OMT, FEM, BEM) are considered as lumped S-parameter components. Measurements of single components are obtained with standard methods and provide highly reliable results, with precision of order 0.1-0.2 dB over the entire band. Waveguides are simulated with an analytical model, in order to reproduce the effect of their temperature gradient and the effect of standing waves caused by impedance mismatch at the interfaces between the FEM and BEM. This is because the 1.8-meter long waveguides were not measured at unit level in cryogenic conditions. The model provides accurate agreement with the measured waveguide response in the conditions of the test measurements (300 K). The composite bandpasses are estimated to have a precision of about 1.5 to 2 dB.

Some details are also given in the corresponding section of the LFI Appendix.


Thanks to its differential scheme, the LFI is insensitive to many effects caused by 1/f noise, thermal fluctuations, or electrical instabilities. As detailed in #planck2011-1-4 [Planck early results. First assessment of the Low Frequency Instrument in-flight performance], one effect detected during the first survey was the daily temperature fluctuation in the back-end unit induced by the downlink transponder, which was powered on each day for downlinks during the first 258 days of the mission. As expected, the effect is highly correlated between the sky and reference load signals. In the difference, the variation is reduced by a factor [math]∼(1 − r)[/math], where [math]r[/math] is the gain modulation factor defined above (see eq. \ref{eq:erre1}).

A particular class of signal fluctuations occasionally observed during operations is due to electrical instabilities that appear as abrupt increases in the measured drain current of the front-end amplifiers, with a relaxation time variable from few seconds to some hundreds of seconds. Typically, these events cause a simultaneous change in the sky and reference load signals. Because they are essentially common-mode, their residual on the differenced data is negligible, and the data are suitable for science production. In a few cases the residual fluctuation in the differential output was large enough (a few millikelvin in calibrated antenna temperature units) to be flagged, and the data were not used. The total amount of discarded data for all LFI channels until Operational Day 389 was about 2000 s per detector, or 0.008%.

A further peculiar effect appeared in the 44 GHz detectors, where single isolated samples, either on the sky or the reference voltage output, were far from the rest. Over a reference period of four months, 15 occurrences of single-sample spikes (out of 24 total anomaly events) were discarded, an insignificant loss of data.

Thermal Susceptibility[edit]

As mentioned in section LFI In-flight Calibration above and detailed in #gregorio2013, during the CPV campaign, susceptibility tests were performed in order to characterise the LFI instrument susceptibility to thermal and electrical variations.

The effect of temperature fluctuations on the LFI radiometers is originated in the Planck cold end interface of the hydrogen sorption cooler to the instrument focal plane. The temperature is actively controlled through a dedicated stage, the Thermal Stabilization Assembly (TSA), providing a first reduction of the effect. The thermal mass of the focal plane strongly contribute to reduce residual fluctuations. The physical temperature fluctuations propagated at the front end modules cause a correlated fluctuation in the radiometer signal degrading the quality of scientific data. The accurate characterization of this effect is crucial for possibly removing it from raw data by exploiting the housekeeping information of thermal sensors.

The propagation of the temperature oscillations through the focal plane and the instrument response to thermal changes were characterized through two main tests:

  • the thermal dynamic response aimed at measuring the dynamic thermal behaviour of the LFI Focal Plane;
  • the radiometers thermal susceptibility.

Some details are also given in the corresponding section of the LFI Appendix.

Instrument Budgets[edit]

LFI power, mass and telemetry budget are given in the corresponding section of the LFI Appendix.

LFI Systematics Effects[edit]

The LFI design was driven by the need to suppress systematic effects well below instrument white noise. The differential receiver scheme, with reference loads cooled to 4 K, greatly minimises the effect of 1/f noise and common-mode fluctuations, such as thermal perturbations in the 20K LFI focal plane. The use of a gain modulation factor (see Eq. \ref{eq:erre1} in RCA section above) largely compensates for spurious contributions from input offsets. Furthermore, diode averaging (Eq. \ref{eq:v1} in RCA section above) allows us to cancel second-order correlations such as those originating from phase switch imbalances.

We have developed an error budget for systematic effects (#planck2011-1-4, bersanelli2010 [Planck early results. First assessment of the Low Frequency Instrument in-flight performance],Planck pre-launch status: Design and description of the Low Frequency Instrument]) as a reference for both instrument design and data analysis. Our goal is to ensure that each systematic effect is rejected to the specified level, either by design or by robust removal in software. At this stage, the following effects are relevant:

– 1/f noise;
– 1 Hz frequency spikes;
– receivers non-linearities;
– thermal fluctuations in the back-end modules driven by temperature oscillations from the transponder during the first survey;
– thermal fluctuations in the 20 K focal plane;
– thermal fluctuations of the 4 K reference loads.

For each of these effects we used flight data and information from ground tests to build timelines, maps, and angular power spectra that represent our best knowledge of their impact on the scientific analysis. The details of the systematic effect analysis is given in section LFI data processing section - Systematic Effects uncertainties.

The Sorption Cooler[edit]


BEM Back End Module
BEU Back End Unit
CCE Central Check-out Equipment
CDMS Command and Data Management Subsystem
CDMU Central Data Management Unit
CoG Centre of Gravity
CPV Calibration and Performance Verification
CSL Centre Spatiale de Liege
DAE Data Acquisition Electronics
DC Direct Current
DPC Data Processing Centre
DPU Digital Processing Unit
EMC Electro-Magnetic Compatibility
EMI Electro-Magnetic Interference
FEM Front End Module
FEU Front End Unit
FH Feed Horn
FOV Field Of View
FPU Focal Plane Unit
HK House Keeping
ILT Instrument Level Test
IST Integrated System Test
JFET Junction Field Effect Transistor
LEOP Launch and Early Orbit Phase
MLI Multilayer Insulation
MoI Moment of Inertia
MOS Margin Of Safety
OMT Ortho Module Transducer
PCS Power Control Subsystem
PSF Point Spread Function
RAA Radiometer Array Assembly
RAM Random Access Memory
RCA Radiometer Chain Assembly
REBA Radiometer Electronics Box Assembly
S/C Spacecraft
SCC Sorption Cooler Compressor assembly
SCCE Sorption Cooler Cold End
SCE Sorption Cooler Electronics
SCOS Spacecraft Control and Operations System
SCP Sorption Cooler Piping
SCS Sorption Cooler Subsystem
SLT System Level Test
SPU Signal Processing Unit
SS Stainless Steel
SVM Service Module
TCS Thermal Control System
TM Telemetry
TSA Thermal Stabilization Assembly
TTC Telemetry, Tracking and Command
VSWR Voltage Standing Wave Ratio
WG Waveguide


Feed Horns xxx
REBA Radiometer Electronics Box Assembly


<biblio force=false>

  1. References


(Planck) Low Frequency Instrument

(Planck) High Frequency Instrument

LFI warm electronics Back End Unit

High Electron Mobility Transistor

LFI Radiometer Array Assembly

Sorption Cooler Subsystem (Planck)

LFI Radiometer Electronics Box Assembly

LFI cryogenic amplifying stage Front End Unit

Service Module

Sorption Cooler Compressor assembly

Focal Plane Unit

LFI warm electronics Back End Module

LFI Data Acquisition Electronics

revolutions per minute

LFI Radiometer Chain Assembly

LFI cryogenic amplifying stage Front End Module

LFI Ortho Module Transducer

analog to digital converter

Feed Horn

LFI Waveguide

Data Processing Unit

Signal Processing Unit

[LFI meaning]: absolute calibration refers to the 0th order calibration for each channel, 1 single number, while the relative calibration refers to the component of the calibration that varies pointing period by pointing period.

System Level Test

Centre Spatial de Liège

Calibration and Performance Verification

Line Of Sight


Cosmic Microwave background

hermal Stabilization Assembly

Command and Data Management System

Command and Data Management Unit

Data Processing Center


House Keeping

Junction Field Elect Transistor

Launch & Early Orbit Phase