The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Project enters a new era and takes a major step towards the start of the construction of the world’s largest radio telescope, after the announcement today of the teams who will be responsible for its final design. In total, more than three hundred and fifty scientists and engineers, representing 18 nations and drawn from nearly one hundred institutions, universities and industry have the challenging task to work on the critical detailed design phase which will usher in the most sensitive and powerful telescope ever devised.
“This is a level of engagement only seen in revolutionary projects!”, said Professor Phil Diamond, Director General of the SKA Organisation. “That we have been able to pull together a team of some of the world’s best experts, most prestigious institutions and major companies reflects the passion and ambition of the scientific and engineering communities to work on an inspirational world-class project of the scale of the SKA.”
The funding made available by the partners for this detailed design phase is €120Million.
The SKA is a global endeavour and one of the largest and most ambitious scientific projects in history. From 2018 onwards, eventually thousands of large dishes and literally millions of radio receivers, will be deployed in desert regions in Africa and in Australia, eventually making the SKA one of the true giants of the astronomical and scientific world.
During 2013 the SKA Organisation sent out invitations to research organisations and industry partners around the globe to participate in the analysis and design of the components of the SKA during its three year detailed design phase. This request for proposals included a conceptual design of the telescope, a work breakdown structure, a statement of the work required and additional reference documents. As with other projects of this magnitude, such as the development of the Large Hadron Collider or major space programmes, the SKA has been broken down into various modules called “Work Packages”. Each of these Work Packages will be managed by a consortium of international experts.
“Each element of the SKA is critical to the overall success of the project, and we certainly look forward to seeing the fruits of each consortium’s hard work shape up over the coming years”, said Professor John Womersley, Chairman of the SKA Board. “Now this multi-disciplinary team of experts has three full years to come up with the best technological solutions for the final design of the telescope, so we can start tendering for construction of the first phase in 2017 as planned. The Directors of the SKA Board feel that the consortia selected represent some of the world’s very finest scientists and engineers.”
Each consortium has provided detailed management and verification plans, schedules, milestones and budgets for the various elements with which they have been tasked. The strategic aim of the SKA Organisation, which is coordinating the global effort, is that the work undertaken within each of the consortia is focused on these specific elements of the SKA project and that their work will span the entire pre-construction period and meet critical design reviews along the way.
Analogous to a jigsaw puzzle, the consortia teams will be called upon to ensure that their various elements integrate and interface as seamlessly as possible.
With a collecting area of one square kilometre (one million square metres), the scale of the SKA represents a significant step forward in engineering. When operational, the SKA telescope will provide a monumental increase over current scientific capabilities and be able to address some of humankind’s greatest questions, such as our understanding of gravity, the nature of dark energy, the very formation of the Universe and whether or not life exists elsewhere.