The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope is an international project involving 12 member countries and participation of around 100 organisations, across a total of 20 countries.
Once completed the SKA will be the world’s largest radio telescope, collecting radio waves, which are invisible to both the human eye and optical telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope, to allow us to study the Universe in unprecedented detail.
More sensitive than any radio telescope before it, the SKA - with eventually over a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area, will help astronomers answer some of the biggest questions in astronomy today on the early Universe, cosmic magnetism, galaxy evolution and fundamental physics.
The SKA will be developed over a phased timeline. Pre-construction development began in 2012 and will last until the latter half of this decade, involving the detailed design, implementation, R&D work, and contract preparation needed to bring the SKA’s first phase to construction readiness.
The SKA will be built in two main phases:
SKA Phase 1, will consist of 133 mid-frequency dishes (plus 64 MeerKAT dishes) located in South Africa and ~130,000 low-frequency antennas located in Western Australia, it will not only perform transformational science but will drive development of high-tech industry in the era of Big Data.
SKA Phase 2 will complete the telescope arrays at both sites, and become fully operational in the late 2020s, by which time the SKA will consist of some 2000 high and mid frequency dishes and aperture arrays and a million low-frequency antennas.
The UK government, through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), is committing £100m to the construction of the SKA and the SKA Headquarters, as its share as a core member of the project. The global headquarters of the SKA Organisation are located in the UK at Jodrell Bank, home to the iconic Lovell Telescope.
With construction expected to commence sometime in 2020, STFC is working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Innovate UK, The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and Department for International Trade (DIT) to develop and execute the UK SKA industry strategy, providing a single point contact for UK Industry to engage with the SKA.
The design and development of the SKA has been segmented into elements called work packages. These work packages are being implemented by international consortia of scientists and engineers, including many from UK Universities and National Laboratories. The UK involvement in these work packages is set out below. For more information on the full list of work package consortia please see the main SKA website.
Scientists and engineers at the University of Cambridge lead the Science Data Processor (SDP) work package and are also major contributors to the Low Frequency Aperture Array (LFAA) and Mid Frequency Aperture Array (MFAA) consortia. Visit the University of Cambridge website for more information.
The University of Manchester is involved in 5 different work package consortia. Scientists and engineers there lead the Signal and Data Transport (SADT) consortium, are playing key roles in the Science Data Processor (SDP), the Central Signal Processor (CSP), the Low Frequency Aperture Array (LFAA) and the Mid Frequency Aperture Array (MFAA). Visit the University of Manchester website for more information.
At the University of Oxford and the Oxford E-Science Research Centre (OeRC), engineers and scientists are playing key roles in the Low Frequency Aperture Array (LFAA), the Science Data Processor (SDP), the Central Signal Processor (CSP) and the consortium work package involved in the design of the SKA dishes. Visit the University of Oxford website for more information.
The Hartree Technology centre at Daresbury Laboratory, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC), are playing key roles in the design and construction of the SKA.
Last updated: 30 July 2018