SPARTA for the VLT: status and plans

SPARTA, the ESO Standard Platform for Adaptive optics Real Time Applications, is the high-performance, real-time computing platform serving three major 2nd generation instruments at the VLT (SPHERE, GALACSI and GRAAL) and possibly a fourth one (ERIS).

SPARTA offers a very modular and fine-grained architecture, which is generic enough to serve a variety of AO systems. It includes the definitions of all the interfaces between those modules and provides libraries and tools for their implementation and testing, as well as a mapping to technologies capable of delivering the required performance. These comprise, amongst others, VXS communication, FPGA-aided wavefront processing, command time filtering and I/O, DSP-based wavefront reconstruction, DDS data distribution and multi-CPU number crunching, most of them innovative with respect to ESO standards in use. A scaled-down version of the platform, namely SPARTA-Light, will employ a subset of the SPARTA technologies to implement the AO modules for the VLT auxiliary telescopes (NAOMI) and is the baseline for a new VLTI instrument (GRAVITY).

For the above instrument portfolio, SPARTA provides also a complete implementation of the AO application, with features customised to each instrument's needs and specific algorithms. In this paper we describe the architecture of SPARTA, its technology choices, functional units and test tools. End-to-end as well as individual module performance data is provided for the XAO system delivered to SPHERE. Initial performance results are presented for the GALACSI and GRAAL systems under development.

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