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Notes from the Chair of the Board

The Directors of SKA Organisation held a mid-term meeting at the SKA Headquarters, Jodrell Bank, UK on the 28th of February 2020.

Notes from the Chair of the SKA Board Mid-Term Meeting of the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation


Dr Catherine Cesarsky, Chair of the Board, welcomed directors and invited guests to the Mid-Term Meeting of the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation.  There was Board representation from Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Invited guests included representatives of the Council Preparatory Task Force (CPTF), Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (Spain), National Astronomical Observatory of Japan,  Science and Technology Facilities Council (UK), SKA Finance Committee, SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC), State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (Switzerland).


Ms Patricia Kelly, Chair of the Council Preparatory Task Force, provided an update on the CPTF’s activities since the last Board meeting (November 2019).  The Board was informed of the CPTF’s advice on the potential funding environment for construction and operations of SKA-1, which included a recommendation to plan based on delivering the SKA-1 Design Baseline.

Ms Theresa Devaney, Head of Business Development and Change, presented an update on the current status of transition planning activities, including the process towards ratification of the UK HQ Agreement and the funding of the SKA Observatory.  The Board noted that the UK Government intends to start the parliamentary processes to ratify the UK HQ Agreement in legislation in March 2020.

Ms Devaney shared the schedule leading to the establishment of the SKA Observatory Council and subsequent governance meetings. The SKA Board has decided to move its July meeting to 14-15 July 2020 so that, if the CPTF so wishes, an SKA Observatory Council meeting can be held later in the same week, i.e. on 16-17 July 2020.

The aim remains to transition from SKA Organisation to the SKA Observatory by the end of 2020, with 14 December 2020 as the target date for execution of that step.

Committee Reports

Finance Committee

The Board received reports from Mr David Luchetti, Chair of the Finance Committee, on the Budget process for 2021-2022 and the external audit plan for year ending 31 December 2019; the external audit plan was approved by the Board.

Science and Engineering Advisory Committee

The Board received a presentation from Prof. Uday Shankar, a representative of the SEAC, who provided an update on the outcomes of recent SEAC meetings.


Dr Joseph McMullin, Programme Director and Deputy Director-General, presented an update on Construction Planning. Following the recent successful System CDR, attention within SKA Organisation has turned to the preparation of the Construction Proposal and the Observatory Establishment and Delivery Plan, which covers planning for operations, business-enabling functions and future developments.  After receiving advice from the Council Preparatory Task Force (CPTF) and the Science and Engineering Committee (SEAC), together with feedback from Science Working Groups (SWGs), the Board confirmed that both documents should be drafted with the aim of realising the full Phase 1 scope of the SKA by delivering the agreed Design Baseline for two transformational telescopes, SKA1-Mid in South Africa and SKA1-Low in Australia.  Appendix 1 shows the Design Baseline specification of the two telescopes.

The CPTF, which, among other things, is developing the Construction and Operations Funding Schedule, has agreed to recommend to the future SKA Observatory Council that the Members seek to deliver the full funding required for the Design Baseline.  The Construction Proposal will set out the required timing for the delivery of funds from the Members, which may not all be available at the point of construction approval, by efficiently staging the deployment of facilities with a clear commitment to complete the full Design Baseline of SKA1 in a timely manner.


Dr Lewis Ball, recently appointed Director of Operations, presented his analysis of the Operations Plan (Revision 2). This included a review of all non-capital costs identified in areas of Construction Support, Observatory Operations and Business-enabling functions for the period 2021-2030.

Dr Ball highlighted the current, conservative approach for the provision of power for the telescopes and associated computing; this is the largest non-staff cost item, representing around 19% of the total. Since we are committed to designing a sustainable SKA Observatory, work on the use of power generated from renewable sources is underway; this will have the added benefit of reducing the overall spend on power. In summary, the Operations Plan was described as lean and focused, the findings from the analysis will be incorporated into Revision 3, which has been submitted to an external review panel in advance of the panel meeting on 23-24 March 2020. 

Administration and Governance

Prof. Philip Diamond, Director-General, reported on project Health, Safety, Security and Environmental (HSSE) matters as part of his project update. Prof. Diamond shared the organisation’s current policy and procedures related to the COVID-19 situation, the company are following advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Currently, all overseas travel by SKA staff is under review along with planned SKA meetings in the coming months. It is expected that standard, best practice, seasonal flu precautions will be adhered to by all SKA Organisation staff, HQ visitors and guests. Business continuity planning for future COVID-19 scenarios is also taking place.

Prof Diamond updated the Board on the work currently taking place to investigate the potential impact of the various current and planned Low Earth Orbit satellite mega-constellations on SKA1.  Working with various stakeholders, technical investigations and simulations are progressing and will be reported on in due course. In addition to engagement with the wider astronomy community to ensure alignment of policy views, initial meetings between the SKA and industry representatives in the sector to explore the issues have been positive.  These discussions will continue over the coming months.

The next meeting of the Board will be on 21-22 May 2020, at SKA HQ.  Further Board meetings in 2020 are planned for July and December.  If required, during this crucial period for the project, the Board will also meet in September.

Catherine Cesarsky
Chair, SKA Board of Directors
27 November 2019



Appendix 1: SKA1 Design Baseline

  SKA1-Low SKA1-Mid
Location Australia South Africa
Frequency range 50 MHz – 350 MHz 350 MHz – 15.3 GHz
Antenna type Log Periodic Dipole Antenna 15m Offset Gregorian Dish
Quantity 131,072 133 SKA dishes equipped with Band 1, Band 2, and Band 5 Feeds (plus 64 MeerKAT dishes with L- and UHF-Bands)
Maximum baseline (km) 65 150
Pulsar Search 167 nodes 500 nodes
Compute Power (Common to both) 260 PFlops


Below is an archive of all the previous Notes from the Chair

30th SKA Board Meeting – July 2019

29th SKA Board Meeting – March 2019

28th SKA Board Meeting – November 2018

27th SKA Board Meeting – July 2018

26th SKA Board Meeting – April 2018

25th SKA Board Meeting – November 2017

24th SKA Board Meeting – July 2017

23rd SKA Board Meeting – March 2017

22nd SKA Board Meeting – November 2016

21st SKA Board Meeting – July 2016

20th SKA Board Meeting – April 2016

19th SKA Board Meeting – November 2015

18th SKA Board Meeting – July 2015

15th SKA Board Meeting – October 2014

14th SKA Board Meeting – July 2014

12th SKA Board Meeting – March 2014

11th SKA Board Meeting – October 2013

10th SKA Board Meeting – July 2013

9th SKA Board Meeting – April 2013

8th SKA Board Meeting – January 2013

2nd SKA Board Meeting – March 2012

1st SKA Board Meeting – January 2012