The SKA Organisation has received the independent evaluation report and is preparing for the final decision on where to build the Square Kilometre Array.
17 February 2012, Manchester, UK – The Board of Directors of the SKA Organisation today received the evaluation report and a site selection recommendation drawn up by the independent SKA Site Advisory Committee (SSAC). The SSAC has reviewed the material obtained on the Candidate Sites, assessed reports by expert panels and consultants and has carried out an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the sites. The process by which the SSAC carried out its work was validated by the SKA Siting Group (SSG), a working group of the Board of Directors, to verify that the SSAC adhered to the evaluation plan adopted by the Members of the SKA Organisation.
The next stage of the process is to schedule in late March or early April a face-to-face General Meeting of the Members, excluding those from the candidate countries, to consider the SSAC’s report and recommendation. This meeting will also agree on further steps which could include negotiations with the Candidate countries, or a vote on a resolution to select a site if consensus has already been reached. If the site is not selected at this first meeting of the Members, they will agree on the next steps in the process.
“The Board thanks the SSAC and SSG members for their diligence and hard work. A decision on the site of the SKA will be made by Organisation Members in due course. The Board and Organisation will not be releasing the reports, or commenting on their content, until after the proposed late March-early April meeting,” Board chair Professor John Womersley said.
The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters in Manchester UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and centralise the leadership of the Square Kilometre Array telescope project. The founding signatories are Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. Canada has recently applied for membership and will join following approval expected shortly. These signatories plan to spend €69M in the period leading up to the construction phase which starts in 2016.
Two sites have been proposed to host the SKA:
- * South Africa partnering with Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique
- * Australia, together with New Zealand.
The Candidate countries involved in bids to host the SKA who are Members of the SKA Organisation are therefore Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of South Africa. The Members for these countries will not take part in the site selection process. The Members eligible to vote are: China, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Members of the SKA Organisation
Australia – Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
China – National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Italy – National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF)
New Zealand – Ministry of Economic Development
Republic of South Africa – National Research Foundation (NRF)
The Netherlands – Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
United Kingdom – Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
About the SKA
The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes. With thousands of receptors extending out to distances of 3 000 km from the centre of the telescope, the SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the big bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. More than 70 institutes in 20 countries, together with industry partners, are participating in the scientific and technical design of the SKA telescope. The target construction cost is €1.5 billion and construction could start as early as 2016.
The SKA project will drive technology development in antennas, fibre networks, signal processing, software and computing, and power. The design, construction and operation of the SKA have the potential to impact skills development, employment and economic growth in science, engineering and associated industries, not only in the host countries but in all partner countries.