[ASA] Update on SKA Developments [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Boyle, Brian Brian.Boyle at industry.gov.au
Wed Mar 11 15:44:10 AEDT 2015

I have recently returned from Manchester, where I attended the SKA Board and Members meetings. As you may have already heard, an amended design for SKA Phase 1 has been adopted by the SKA Organisation, including a sizeable cut to planned infrastructure.
It has been clear for some time that SKA1 as initially conceived, was not possible within the agreed budget.  Accordingly, the project has prioritised the two science programs thought most likely to produce transformational results (pulsars and Epoch of Reionisation) and developed a telescope design capable of delivering on these projects within the cost cap of €650 million.
Details of the instruments are provided in the SKAO Media release here https://www.skatelescope.org/news/worlds-largest-radio-telescope-near-construction/ but essentially, the design sees a 30% reduction in SKA1 MID, a 50% reduction in SKA-Low and the ‘deferral’ of SKA-Survey.  This results in a telescope with a reduced, but still impressive scientific capability.
After consultation with the Australian astronomy community, the Australian Government determined to remain engaged in the project, but to advocate strongly for the inclusion of strategic scientific and technology pathways (e.g. PAF and ASKAP support) of particular importance to the Australian community.   I believe this engagement has influenced some important inclusions in the re-scoped design that will benefit Australia and the SKA’s capability overall.
While the infrastructure required for SKA1 Low and SKA1 Mid will make up the majority of SKA1, the Board has agreed to continue funding the development of Phased Array Feed (PAF) receiver technology and has proposed to support future ASKAP operations (timing and details to be negotiated with CSIRO). This will enable ASKAP to provide SKA1 with early survey capability and also serve as a platform for the development of next-generation PAFs. I believe it is this inclusion of transformational capability, not just the targeting of transformational science projects, that will allow the SKA to deliver truly transformational science.
The Board did not confirm this rebaselined design as final, but rather noted the recommendation as a starting point for further intergovernmental negotiations. Negotiations will begin in coming months and will play a pivotal role in determining the future direction of the SKA.
It is important to note that we have remained engaged with the opinions of Australia’s astronomy community throughout this process.  The government’s support for the current proposed design at the Board meeting was strongly guided by the advice of an extended SKA Science Advisory Committee meeting held in the lead-up to the Board meeting. The ongoing support of Australia’s science community is fundamental to our involvement in the project.
There are challenges ahead, but the SKA remains on track to being the world’s most powerful radio telescope. It is vital that we, the Australian astronomy community, remain positive in our support for this transformational facility as Australia enters negotiations with other partner countries.
I look forward to your continued engagement with the SKA project.
Warm regards,

Brian Boyle PSM FAA
SKA Director
Australian Square Kilometre Array Office
Department of Industry and Science

Industry House Level 9
10 Binara Street, Canberra City ACT 2601
GPO Box 9839, Canberra ACT 2601
Ph: +61-2- 6102 8943 Mob: +61 499 848 844
Email:  brian.boyle at industry.gov.au<mailto:brian.boyle at industry.gov.au>
Internet: http://www.ska.gov.au/
ABN 74 599 608 295


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