Countries commit to raising funds to build SKA

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pretoria - Eight countries have joined forces with South Africa by signing a letter of intent to see the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) built - a move that has been welcomed by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.

Australia, China, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and New Zealand joined South Africa in signing this letter of intent in Italy last Saturday, declaring their common intention to work together to secure funding for the next phase of the project.

"The commitment to funding the SKA is significant as it demonstrates the countries' commitment to make the SKA a success," said Pandor.

The target construction cost is 1.5 million euro (about R14.4 million) and construction could start as early as 2016.

Beyond the nine countries which have already signed the letter of intent, several countries have indicated they will sign in future. The signatory parties represent organisations of national scale and will coordinate groups carrying out SKA research and development (R&D) in their respective countries. 

South Africa's continuing involvement in the project, which is a 1.5 billion euro (about R14.4 billion) global science project, is in line with its commitment to grow investment in R&D. 

The development and construction of the MeerKAT radio telescope is playing an important role in the development of the SKA and South Africa's expertise will be fully involved in the global effort to develop the cutting-edge science and technology to be used by the SKA.

The design, construction and operation of the telescope has the potential to impact on skills development in science, engineering and in associated industries, not only in the host countries but in all project partner countries.

The signing took place at a meeting that established the Founding Board for the SKA as a new management structure to guide the project into the next phase. 

The new board announced that the SKA Project Office (SPO) will be based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester in the United Kingdom. 

It is expected to supersede the existing SKA Development Office (SPDO) currently based at the University of Manchester.

It is hoped that a formal structure will be established in July, at the international SKA Forum in Canada.

More than 70 institutes in 20 countries, together with industry partners, are participating in the scientific and technical design of the telescope, which will be located either in Australia, New Zealand or Southern Africa extending to the Indian Ocean Islands. - BuaNews