SKA project aims to break ground in 2018

Construction on the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope scheduled to start in 2018

Artist impression of SKA1 wide field low-frequency aperture array. 
Credit: SKA Organisation

Artist impression of SKA1 wide field low-frequency aperture array.
Credit: SKA Organisation

Work on the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope is expected to produce a construction-ready design by the end of next year, according to Australian SKA project director David Luchetti. Construction is due to start in 2018.

Australia is expected to provide 14 per cent of the funding for the SKA project, construction of which has been capped at 650 million euros.

More than 250 scientists and engineers from 18 countries and nearly 100 institutions, universities and private-sector organisations will participate in the design of the SKA, which is expected to provide new insights into gravity, dark energy, the formation of the universe and even the possible existence of alien life.

Australia and South Africa are host countries for the SKA telescopes.

Australian organisations participating in SKA-related projects include the CSIRO, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), Swinburne University, Aurecon Australia, Cisco Australia, RPC Technologies and AARNet.

Luchetti said that the SKA project has two aspects to it at the moment: Technical work towards a construction-ready design (the final design will be ready towards the end of 2016) and policy work, which involves forming an international government organisation (the SKA Organisation) that manages countries’ involvement in the SKA.

“That organisation is working on a range of key documents that will govern the relationships and the involvement of the various partner nations. This includes an observatory agreement that all the partner countries will sign up to. Within that agreement, there will be something that identifies the financial contributions of each of the partner countries,” he said.

Luchetti said that SKA will seek government support for Australia to participate in phase one construction and some of the operating costs in 2016.

“The involvement of Australian and New Zealand scientists will be determined by the negotiations with the policy,” he said.

As a host country, Australia is expected to provide 14 per cent of the funds.

Once SKA is operational in 2020, the first work will be conducted is research into pulsars.

In 2013 SKA preconstruction contracts were awarded to a number of Australian companies and research institutions.

CSIRO will lead the dish design consortium where it will continue to develop its phased array feed receiver for wide field of view radio astronomy. CSIRO will also lead the Infrastructure Australia Consortium and is involved in the assembly, integration and verification work package.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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