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Chinese Science Minister visits SKA Global HQ

Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang with members of the Chinese delegation and SKA management team. (Credit: SKA Organisation)

SKA Global Headquarters, 17 July 2019 – The SKA welcomed China’s Minister of Science and Technology (MOST) Wang Zhigang to its newly inaugurated Global Headquarters yesterday.

The Minister was accompanied by a delegation of Chinese officials including the Directors-General in MOST responsible for International Cooperation, High and New Technologies, and Science and Technology for Social Development.

SKA Director-General Prof. Philip Diamond and members of the SKA senior management team provided the delegation with an overview of recent major developments in the project, including key engineering milestones as the SKA approaches its System Critical Design Review, and the latest progress in the establishment of the SKA Observatory.

China was one of the seven initial signatories of the SKA Observatory Convention, signed in March 2019 in Rome. The international treaty will establish the SKA as an intergovernmental organisation, and is now in the process of being ratified via each country’s legislative processes.

“It was my pleasure to welcome our Chinese guests to the SKA Global HQ today, and to have the opportunity to discuss the project with Minister Wang in person,” Prof. Diamond said. “China has supported the SKA since its inception and its institutes have been heavily involved in SKA design work to date, providing important scientific and technological input.  Their expertise and continued commitment to the project is invaluable at this juncture, as we proceed towards construction under the SKA Observatory.”

Chinese industry led the international Dish engineering consortium which designed the SKA’s mid-frequency antenna and has manufactured two SKA prototype dishes, one of which has been constructed on site in South Africa. A team from Tsinghua University also designed the synchronisation system for SKA-Low within the Signal and Data Transport consortium, and there was further Chinese participation in the design of other aspects of SKA-Low.

Shanghai has signalled its support for hosting an SKA Regional Centre, part of a global network of data centres which will store, process and provide access to SKA science products to the user community. Chinese researchers are also active across the SKA’s Science Working Groups, developing and refining the science cases for the SKA.

During his visit, Minister Wang reinforced the importance of the SKA project and the high profile it enjoys in China. He emphasised the Chinese government’s strong support for the project and the intention to work with the project’s international partners to enable construction activities to begin on schedule in approximately 18 months. In turn, Professor Diamond reiterated the project’s commitment to ensuring strong project management control to ensure success, and to encourage the continued growth of the astronomy community in China to be ready to exploit the SKA in the future.

Minister Wang also met Chinese SKA staff members based at the HQ who are working in the organisation’s science, software and policy departments.

“In just a few months we will gather in Shanghai for a major meeting on SKA engineering, commissioning and operations,” Prof. Diamond added. “This will be an excellent opportunity to further our discussions with our Chinese colleagues, and with partners across the project.”