Autumn 2022 SKA-Low update

12 people standing in front of a fence and industrial building under blue skies. A sign on the fence has the SKAO logo and 'SKA-Low Engineering Operations Centre' on it.

The SKA-Low team and visitors from the SKAO global headquarters posed for a photo outside the new Engineering Operations Centre facility in Geraldton. Credit: SKAO.

The WA border reopening recently allowed us to host international visitors from the SKAO for the first time since early 2020.

We were thrilled to welcome Deputy Director-General Joe McMullin, SKA-Low Senior Project Manager Andre van Es, Project Engineer Luca Stringhetti and Infrastructure and Field Node Project Manager David Solan to Australia for a whirlwind tour.

The trip began with a visit to CSIRO’s offices in Sydney, where we met with a range of CSIRO collaborators and visited the PSI ­– the digital group’s impressive test and integration facility. In Perth we visited the SKA-Low Operations team, and met with collaborators from CSIRO, Pawsey, Curtin University and UWA. These great meetings covered topics from AAVS developments and programming to software, telescope assembly, integration and verification (AIV), Pawsey engagement, MRO site-related questions and facilities development.

Six people standing around a large white cross marking a location on red WA dirt in Wajarri country.

Visiting the site of the future SKA-Low Telescope core at the MRO. Credit: SKAO.

We were fortunate to refresh our memories of the future SKA site on a visit to the MRO with Rebecca Wheadon and Chris Brayton from the site entity and ICRAR-Curtin’s Steven Tingay. A Welcome to Country was given by Leonard (Jimba) Merry, a respected member of the Wajarri community from Pia Wadjarri. We visited ASKAP, existing infrastructure and facilities, MWA, AAVS, and had a delightful dinner with the Murchison Shire President Rosco Foulkes-Taylor and his wife, Councillor Emma Foulkes-Taylor.

We wrapped up our visit with a trip to Geraldton and toured the interim Engineering Operations Centre (EOC). It was hugely exciting to see this new space – while significant work is required to outfit it for our work, it is great to be moving down the path with new facilities to enable construction and supporting activities. The group also met with the Mid-West Development Commission and the Geraldton Universities Campus, the expected home of our permanent EOC.

This period included a series of tender workshops as we enter discussions with tenderers for two key pieces of infrastructure – the temporary construction camp (C6) and the Main Entrance Road (C7).

We look forward to many future visits from SKAO staff and collaborators from around the world as we commence this new stage of the project, and plan with enthusiasm for the commencement of construction later this year.

Ant Schinckel, SKA-Low Site Construction Director, SKAO

Red outback dirt under blue sky with fluffy white clouds. The subject of the photo is a white four wheel drive vehicle with the SKAO logo and icon in navy and pink.

We had the opportunity to take out our new SKAO-branded 4WD at the MRO. Credit: SKAO.

Ten people stand in front of supercomputer racks that feature Aboriginal Australian artwork.

Mark Stickells gave us a tour of the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre, the site of the future SKAO Science Processing Centre. Credit: Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre.

Ten people stand under bright sun surrounded by Christmas tree shaped radio telescope antennas on red dirt.

We toured the AAVS (Aperture Array Verification System), a prototype instrument for the SKA. Credit: SKAO.