Welcome to Derek's Design Suite at ASIAA

Working to transform ideas and concepts into material substance

About Me

My Background

When I was in elementary school my father bought a small crystal AM radio set which fascinated me. How was such a thing possible?  We often spent time at the local library in Seattle where I devoured anything related to radio communications. As I got older, this fascination never faded and eventually I went to college to study electrical engineering.  My first engineering job was at Boeing Aerospace in Kent Space Center where I worked under the tutelage of a great mentor whom I still attempt to emulate today. We developed an RF circuit board to I/Q down convert and digitize a radio transmission signal from a JTIDS terminal for an environment simulator.  This was the beginning of what continues to be a fascinating journey into radio communications and now in radio astronomy.

My System Design Approach

For system designs, I generally concentrate my early efforts working closely with scientists/system engineers toward developing an initial architectural system block diagram. Crude as it may be at this stage, it’s my attempt at laying out hardware solutions to satisfy the project requirements. From here, trades and compromises are made until we arrive at an architecture that is realizable within the constraints of the project. It’s rarely a smooth process but if done correctly can make a huge difference on the outcome of a project. 

Instrument Designs

For custom instruments, I typically use a combination of circuit board designs and connectorized RF and/or optical components and integrate into a standalone EMI chassis.  My aim is for clean and simple designs that are both functional and aesthetically satisfying to myself and the final end user.  I put a lot of care and detail into these designs as it is a representation of me as a designer.  It doesn't always turn out as planned but I'd like to think that I'm getting better with time.  

Current Projects

GLT Hardware System Block

I developed the initial hardware electronic system architecture for the for the GLT project and captured it in the form of this system block diagram. This architecture was based largely on verbal communications with the science team and has been refined to its current state with input from several engineers and scientists. A Taipei colleague and I continue to maintain this drawing to reflect the "As Built Configuration" in Thule AB. We are currently on Rev-0L, 12th revision. (D. Kubo, C.C. Han, M. Inoue, S. Matsushita, K. Asada)

GLT LO Photonics Receiver

This photonics receiver unit was designed,  assembled and tested chiefly by a single individual (said unabashedly of myself) and works in conjunction with a suite of other units within the LO subsystem.  The entire subsystem has been deployed and tested at Thule AB in November of 2017 where the telescope currently resides. (D. Kubo, EAO machining)

GLT Fiber Optics System

I was responsible for the overall fiber optic system and identified and procured the low temperature fiber optic cables capable of operation to -65C, along with several dozens of associated hardware components including the fusion splicing equipment.  Performed the final installation of the fiber terminations and tested the system with the terminal equipment at Thule AB during November of 2017. (D. Kubo, P. Oshiro. S.H. Chang, ICP)

GLT IF Processor

Developed the unit requirements for the IF Processor (down converter) and had a technical staff member carry through the detailed work of design, parts procurement, fabrication, assembly and test.  Two + 1 spare units were deployed to Thule AB in November of 2017. (R. Chilson, D. Kubo)

GLT Backend Reference

As part of the LO subsystem, I defined the unit requirements and procured the long lead PLOs for the 2nd LOs (3.85, 8.15 GHz) and clock (2.048 GHz).  A technical staff member performed the detailed work of design, parts procurement, fabrication, assembly and test.  This unit + 1 spare has been deployed to Thule AB as of November 2017. (R. Chilson, D. Kubo)

SWARM Noise Source & Distribution

Designed a noise + tone injection system for calibration of the SWARM digital correlator.  Modified the existing noise distribution system consisting of amplifiers & power dividers to expand the bandwidth from the original 4 to 6 GHz to the current 4 to 18 GHz. (D. Kubo, J. Kuroda, P. Yamaguchi)

Recent Projects

YTLA System Architecture

I developed the hardware system architecture for the YTLA project based on an I/Q down conversion scheme for realtime sideband separation. This diagram was used as a cost and labor basis for the planning of the project. Ironically this I/Q down conversion scheme is quite similar to my very first engineering project at Boeing decades earlier, albeit the digitized bandwidths are in excess of ten times larger today. (D. Kubo, C.T. Li, H. Jiang)

YTLA I/Q Down Converter

Developed a prototype I/Q down converter and performed astronomical tests to validate this concept.  Supervised the design, assembly and test of this production version shown in the above photo, quantity of 14 + 2 spares. The YTLA has completed its commissioning phase and has started early science as of April 2018. (D. Kubo, J. Kuroda, S. Ho, R. Srinivasan, J.C. Cheng, C.T. Li)

YTLA Noise + Tone Calibration Plate

Designed a noise + tone calibration system (covers 2 to 18 GHz) using left over components from the decommissioned analog correlator system.  Channel to channel isolation is > 120 dB and was achieved using cascaded SPDT RF switches. (D. Kubo)

YTLA Clock Distribution

Designed and procured parts for for this unit which synthesizes a programmable clock frequency (we currently use 2.24 GHz).  Outsourced the assembly and test to our main facility in Taipei.  This unit is currently providing the clocks to 16 ROACH-2 chassis at Mauna Loa. (D. Kubo, C.C. Han)  

SWARM Block Down Converter

Designed and closely oversaw the assembly and test of the first of two sets of BDCs that cover the 8 to 10 GHz portion of the IF spectrum.  A second set of 10 to 12 GHz BDCs were leveraged from this design and was constructed, tested & integrated into the system by a technical staff member. (D. Kubo, R. Chilson, J. Kuroda, R. Srinivasan)


Designed, assembled and tested this LO Reference Test Module (LORTM) to support the ALMA receiver integration and testing at EA-FEIC in Taichung, Taiwan.  A software colleague and I provided onsite support to integrate this unit into their system.  (D. Kubo, R. Srinivasan, C.C. Han)

Peer Reviewed Publications, 1st and 2nd Author

Development of a Mach–Zehnder Modulator Photonic Local Oscillator Source

    Abstract - This paper describes the development of a photonic local oscillator (LO) source based on a three-stage Mach–Zehnder modulator (MZM) device. The MZM laser synthesizer demonstrates the feasibility of providing the photonic reference LO for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array telescope located in Chile. This MZM approach to generating an LO by RF modulation of a monochromatic optical source provides the merits of wide frequency coverage of 4–130 GHz, tuning speed of about 0.2 s, and residual integrated phase noise performance of 0.3° rms at 100 GHz. 

AMiBA Wideband Analog Correlator

Abstract - A wideband analog correlator has been constructed for the Yuan-Tseh Lee Array for Microwave Background Anisotropy. Lag correlators using analog multipliers provide large bandwidth and moderate frequency resolution. Broadband IF distribution, backend signal processing and control are described. Operating conditions for optimum sensitivity and linearity are discussed. From observations, a large effective bandwidth of around 10 GHz has been shown to provide sufficient sensitivity for detecting cosmic microwave background variations. 

Contact Me

Chief Engineer of Hawaii Operations

Academia Sinica

Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Derek Kubo

645 North Aohoku Place, Hilo, Hawaii 96720, United States

(808) 961-2926