Australia joins six countries in creating world’s largest science facility

Australia has joined six other nations in signing an international treaty committing to the construction of the world’s largest science facility – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The Convention, signed by Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom, will establish the SKA Observatory.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews said Australia is perfectly positioned to host the low frequency element of the telescope.

“The signing of the international treaty is an incredible achievement for all countries involved and reinforces Australia’s leading role in this global project.

“Many great advancements in science can be attributed to exploration and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Through this venture, our scientists will have access to data that will help unlock the mysteries of the universe.

“Australia will also be in a prime position to contribute to the design of new technologies, such as when CSIRO invented Wi-Fi as part of its work on radio astronomy,” said Andrews.

The SKA Observatory will make the final decisions on the SKA’s design and will coordinate the contracts needed to build and operate the telescope and associated infrastructure.

The Australian government is investing $293 million over 10 years towards building and initially operating the SKA.

About $1 billion worth of contracts for the construction of the SKA are expected to start being awarded from late 2020 to companies and providers in the SKA’s member countries, providing a substantial return on investment for those countries.

The Australian component of the SKA, SKA-Low, will be the world’s most sensitive low frequency radio telescope.

Hosted at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, it will initially comprise over 130,000 antennas spread over 65 kilometres in remote Western Australia.