Square Kilometre Array telescope project announces the establishment of a Founding Board

Apr 04, 2011

Nine national governmental and research organisations have today established a Founding Board for the global Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project. Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK signed a Letter of Intent in Rome, declaring their common ambition to see the SKA built, and agreed to work together to secure funding for the next phase of the SKA project. The new Board has announced that the SKA Project Office (SPO) will be based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester in the United Kingdom. This new management structure will guide the project into the next phase of development.

The SKA is a €1.5 billion global science project to build the world's largest and most sensitive radio . The SKA will be capable of answering some of the most fundamental questions about the Universe.

The signatory parties represent organisations of national scale and will coordinate groups carrying out SKA research and development work in their respective countries. Further signatories are expected to come forward in the next six months.

Professor John Womersley, chair of the Founding Board, said: "Given the current economic environment, it is reassuring that so many partners have recognised the importance of supporting the SKA. Our partners have taken this step not only because of the inspirational nature of the discoveries that the SKA will make, but also because of the economic benefits that international megascience projects can bring to participating countries."

The SPO, which is hoped to grow to 60 people over the next four years, will supersede the existing SKA Program Development Office (SPDO) currently based at the University of Manchester. The move to Jodrell Bank Observatory is scheduled for 1 January 2012.

Professor Richard Schilizzi, Director of the SKA, says: "The move to Jodrell Bank Observatory comes at a crucial time as the project grows from a concept to an international mega-science project. The new location and facilities will support the significant expansion that is planned."

The decision on the location of the SPO follows a competitive bidding process in which a number of excellent proposals were received, and was announced by the SKA Founding Board following an international review process.

The SKA project will drive technology development in antennas, fibre networks, signal processing, and software and computing. Spin off innovations in these areas will benefit other systems that process large volumes of data. The design, construction and operation of the SKA has the potential to impact skills development in science, engineering and in associated industries not only in the host countries but in all project partners.

The SKA telescope itself will be located in either Australia–New Zealand or Southern Africa. A decision on the location of the SKA telescope will be made in 2012.

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5 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2011
Just think, it'll be 11 years before the thing is up and running.

AT least there's the New Horizons space craft, the new Curiosity Mars rover, and the James Webb telescope to pass the boredom.

Hey, why not go ahead and make a SKA at EACH of the 3 locations? This would allow thrice as much research, and the possibility of coordinated efforts between the three locations to do even deeper and more precise observations...At the least, mapping the stars in ultra-high resolution would go three times as fast if there were three arrays instead of one...
not rated yet Apr 04, 2011
It's all about the money....
5 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2011
Actually, I see no need to keep the SKA project limited to one square kilometre.
If you select an appropriately isolated site, say somewhere in an Australian desert, you could simply start building individual arrays as money and resources permit, then link them up with fibre networks, and extend the whole thing as and when convenient, or financially possible...
Speaking of fibre networks, the new high-speed fibre network in Australia, funded by the Government, would work right in with this initiative.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2011
Hey, why not go ahead and make a SKA at EACH of the 3 locations? This would allow thrice as much research, and the possibility of coordinated efforts between the three locations to do even deeper and more precise observations...At the least, mapping the stars in ultra-high resolution would go three times as fast if there were three arrays instead of one...

First, there are just two locations being considered. The Australian array would have some elements in New Zealand.

Second, of course the SKA project will be used during construction. In fact the computing requirements of the project are such that experimenting with the software organization will be necessary. If the antennas of the SKA all existed today, there would be no way to use all the data.

Oh, and finally, there really will be three different arrays with antennas designed for different frequencies. The center grids for the three arrays will be within a few kilometers of each other.