An artist's impression of a possible SKA dish design. Image credit: SPDO/TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions.
CSIRO and the Square Kilometre Array
CSIRO is engaged in a number of national and international partnerships with industry, science organisations and governments to support Australia’s involvement in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope.
1 December 2009 | Updated 3 July 2012
What is the SKA?
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a next-generation international radio telescope that will be vastly more sensitive than the best present-day instruments.
It will give astronomers remarkable insights into the formation of the early Universe, including the emergence of the first stars, galaxies and other structures.
The SKA will consist of thousands of antennas linked together by high bandwidth optical fibre. It will require new technology and progress in fundamental engineering in fields such as information and communication technology, high-performance computing and production manufacturing techniques.
A €1.5 billion project, the SKA program is being led by the international SKA Organisation, a not-for-profit company with its headquarters in Manchester, UK.
In May 2012, the SKA Organisation announced that the telescope will be implemented across two main sites: the CSIRO-run Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory and surrounding Mid West Radio-Quiet Zone in Western Australia, and southern Africa.
Construction of the SKA Phase 1 is expected to start in 2016 and preliminary science operations are to take place by 2020.
The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder
CSIRO is now building the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope (ASKAP) at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in the Mid West region of Western Australia.
ASKAP will be an array of thirty-six antennas, each 12 metres in diameter, working together as a single telescope. It will use innovative 'radio cameras' called phased array feeds, developed by CSIRO, to scan the sky far more quickly than other radio telescopes.
As well as carrying out cutting-edge science, ASKAP will pioneer and test revolutionary new technologies in the areas of electrical engineering, digital systems, computing and signal transport, and provide key results and techniques to feed into the design of the SKA.
Australia’s approach to the SKA project involves collaborations between industry, government, and science organisations.
The Australian SKA Industry Consortium (ASKAIC) is a group of organisations collaborating to facilitate industry engagement in the SKA project.
ASKAIC’s membership includes major multinational companies, Australian-based companies, CSIRO, and representatives of the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments.
In 2008 Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, launched a register of the opportunities available to industry to participate in building the ASKAP radio telescope in Western Australia.
The Opportunities Register outlines the technology and infrastructure requirements to 2012 in areas where industry partnerships are needed. Budgeted projects total around A$70 million.
The Register reflects CSIRO’s commitment to working with industry to provide innovative, cost-effective solutions for ASKAP, and eventually for the SKA.
The SKA will require new technology and progress in fundamental engineering.
In August 2009 Australia and New Zealand signed a collaborative arrangement on a joint bid to host the SKA.
The arrangement established a governance structure for the joint bid in the form of the Australia - New Zealand SKA Coordination Committee (ANZSCC), an intergovernmental body of senior officials.
CSIRO is an active member of the ANZSCC. The other principal partners are the Australian, New Zealand, and Western Australian Governments.
CSIRO will work with the Australian and New Zealand governments, and the SKA Organisation, to determine its future role in the SKA in more detail.
CSIRO has been involved in the international SKA project from the beginning and is an active participant in planning for the SKA through the SKA Organisation's Project Execution Plan program and the earlier European Union Preparatory Phase Studies for the SKA (PrepSKA) program.
Key CSIRO staff have attended all international SKA meetings and have participated in over 90 per cent of the many relevant technical and governance teleconferences.
Read more about CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.