Welcome to the latest edition of the Australian SKA Project Director’s Update, where I give a rundown on developments in building the next generation of radio astronomy capability.
Australia set to become SKA Observatory founding member
I am very happy to share the news that on Tuesday this week, Australia ratified the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory Convention, our final step to becoming a founding member of the SKA Observatory. This is the culmination of years of effort by many dedicated people and I thank everyone for their contribution in reaching this important milestone.
The SKA Observatory is the Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO) that will construct and operate the SKA telescopes. Australia joins South Africa, Italy and the Netherlands in finalising their countries’ preparations for the new organisation to be established. The United Kingdom, China and Portugal are set to complete their processes in the coming months.
Construction Proposal and delivery plan endorsed
Further exciting news for the project was announced this week, with the SKA Organisation Board having unanimously endorsed the Construction Proposal and the associated Observatory Establishment and Delivery Plan. These are critical foundation documents and the culmination of the multi-year global pre-construction design phase. They will now be considered for final approval by the SKA Observatory Council, once it is established. Congratulations to the SKA Office and the many institutional partners around the world that contributed to this mammoth effort.
This week’s big announcements speak to the commitment and determination of the SKA partnership in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This progress puts the project on a path to move into the construction phase in mid-2021, opening up contract opportunities for Australian businesses.
Negotiations around the allocation of industrial work packages have also made significant progress in recent months. As part of the agreement to join the SKA Observatory, every member country can expect to receive around 70% ‘fair work return’ on contributions to construction contracts.
While the details are being finalised, we know a large part of Australia’s allocations will see Australian businesses developing the infrastructure around the site. This includes work on roads and tracks, a new runway, trenches for power and fibre optic cables, and constructing buildings we’ll need on site.