Construction has begun on the world’s largest radio telescope, the $3 billion Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO,) which is being developed across large areas of outback Western Australia and South Africa.
Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony on Wajarri Yamaji Country, 800 kilometres north of Perth yesterday.
An international collaboration of 16 countries, the SKAO will be the largest science facility on Earth, networking signals picked up at sister telescope sites across the two countries.
More than 100,000 antennas will be built across 74 kilometres in the Murchison region of WA, part of an array that will ultimately include thousands of dishes and up to a million low-frequency antennas.
Husic announced that the SKA Observatory had awarded contracts valued at over $200 million to Australian business Ventia to begin infrastructure projects on-site including power and fibre networks, and the construction of buildings for data processing equipment.
Husic said: “Australia’s membership of the SKA Observatory is not only good for industry today but will inspire generations of Australians to dream big and follow a career in STEM.
“It will also provide an incredible platform for the nation to show our…scientific knowledge and research on the world stage.”
Husic said the project was an extraordinary feat of astronomy, scientific infrastructure and international cooperation.
“This first-of-its-kind technology will allow astronomers to tackle fundamental scientific questions, ranging from the birth of the Universe to the origins of life.
“We also expect the SKA to attract an estimated $1.8 billion in foreign income flows to Australia over its first 30 years and create around 350 medium-term jobs.”
Editor’s note: This story has been amended to correct the quantum of contracts let to Australian industry.
Picture: Composite image of the future SKA telescopes