We have designed and built a new, wide band, modulable resolution spectrometer, in view of full astronomical qualifying tests, and to prepare future models for the FIRST satellite's heterodyne instrument. Our spectrometer, a hybrid digital Autocorrelator, offers flexibility in terms of bandwidth (from 170MHz to 680MHz) and resolution (from 700kHz to 3MHz). This spectrometer required the development of a dedicated analog filter bank, homemade samplers, and the design of full custom GaAs integrated circuits.
Laboratory tests have shown excellent agreement with expected performances and observations performed with the IRAM 30-m radiotelescope have qualified its capabilities. Despite the relatively limited number of channels of our current prototype compared to others spectrometers, the main advantages are its stability (inherent to digital technique), and its spectral versatility.
Recent microelectronics advances and rad-tolerance of our spectrometer components are used to prepare a new, compact, and low power consumption autocorrelator in view of a flight model for HIFI, the heterodyne instrument on the ESA cornerstone mission FIRST.