20 June 2018
In a unanimous decision, the Board of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation has approved the application for membership submitted by the Spanish Government. This makes Spain the eleventh Member of the SKA Organisation.
The SKA project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by SKA Organisation based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve our understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.
STFC represents the UK as part of the SKA consortium and STFC Executive Chair Professor Mark Thomson said:
“We are delighted that Spain has become the latest member country of the SKA organisation. I look forward to the Spanish radio astronomy community becoming an even closer collaborative partner with SKA, including with UK colleagues, in what is one of the largest ongoing international research projects”.
Pedro Duque, the newly appointed Spanish Minister of Science, Innovation & Universities stated: “Being a member of the international organisation will allow Spain to explore how to best participate in the construction of the future SKA Observatory, ensuring that Spanish scientists have access to the best large-scale radio-astronomy infrastructures and that Spanish cutting-edge industry is well positioned to bid for technology development and construction contracts”.
The Spanish participation in the SKA has been led by the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
The SKA will be the next generation radio telescope array, with a transformational impact. It was originally conceived as a “Hydrogen Pulsar” telescope, but it will provide a sea change in most areas of astronomy. Early science is scheduled to begin in 2020. The UK is contributing £100 million, representing about 18-19% of the project, to the construction of the instrument and STFC represents the UK as part of the SKA consortium.
STFC is working with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Innovate UK, KTN and UKTI to develop and execute the industry strategy and support UK Industry being involved in the SKA project. STFC provide a single point contact for Industry to engage with the SKA. This support is there to nurture new spin offs, open new markets for UK Industry to SKA Member countries and allow companies to tender for SKA construction contracts.
The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes or instruments, called an array, to be spread over long distances. The SKA is to be constructed in two phases: Phase 1 (called SKA1) in South Africa and Australia; Phase 2 (called SKA2) expanding into other African countries, with the component in Australia also being expanded.
Already supported by 11 member countries – Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom – SKA Organisation has brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers and more than 100 companies and research institutions across 20 countries in the design and development of the telescope.