Winter 2022 SKA-Low update

The SKA-Low project team in Australia is growing fast, with 20 staff members across our sites in Perth and Geraldton, and several more soon to join.

Three people standing in front of a metal fenced industrial building with a sign with the SKAO logo and 'SKA-Low Engineering Operations Centre' below.

Director-General Phil Diamond, SKA-Low Telescope Director Dr Sarah Pearce and SKA-Low Construction Director Ant Schinckel (L-R) at the Engineering Operations Centre, Geraldton, WA. Credit: SKAO.

In the past 2 months, we have completed delivery and installation of furniture to our Science Operations Centre (SOC) in Perth, and moved into the new Engineering Operations Centre (EOC) in Geraldton, so we are really starting to feel we have some great work homes. These will be our homes for the next few years, until we build new facilities for the longer-term construction and operations of the SKA-Low Telescope.

In the EOC in Geraldton, plans are well underway for a range of technical facilities that we require for the project, including electronic workshops, an integration and test facility (ITF), and a specialised radio-frequency interference (RFI) measurement chamber.

Director-General visit

Nine people standing in front of an SKAO banner and a large lit version of the SKAO logo on the wall.

Phil Diamond with the SKA-Low team at the Perth Science Operations Centre, complete with the newly installed illuminated SKAO sign! Credit: SKAO.

In May we were pleased to host SKAO Director-General Phil Diamond on his visit to Australia.

Phil visited both the SOC and EOC offices, and spoke to staff about the vision and mission of the SKA project. He met with colleagues from CSIRO, ICRAR and Curtin University while in Perth, and visited the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre, where he met Setonix the supercomputer and got a sneak preview of their new room-temperature diamond-based quantum computer. During his visit, Phil was hosted by CSIRO on a tour of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), on Wajarri Yamatji country, and the future site of the SKA-Low Telescope.

The increased ability to travel has resulted in many other visitors to Australia. We were excited to recently hold a series of Assembly, Integration and Verification (AIV) team meetings in Perth with system AIV team members from Perth, Geraldton, Marsfield and Japan. We also welcomed members of the SKAO UK office, including the group planning the power station for the SKA, the RFI team, logistics support staff, project managers and a number of other engineering groups. This marks a return to some level of business as normal in this new phase of the COVID era, though it will probably never be quite the same as pre-COVID.

Aboriginal Business Forum

In June, Deputy Telescope Director George Simpson and Site Manager Mark Bennett attended the inaugural Mid West Aboriginal Business Forum in Geraldton; a one-day forum to promote growth in the community and highlight Aboriginal business owners in the region. They attended together with Anthony Holzwart and Michael Beaton from the Australian Government’s Industry Liaison Office and Chris Brayton, CSIRO’s MRO Deputy Site Entity Leader.

The media reported more than 200 people from Mid West Aboriginal businesses, state agencies and local industry attended, with high profile Western Australian government speakers. The attendees said that it was a fantastic professional and networking opportunity, with many new connections made.

Ant Schinckel, SKA-Low Site Construction Director, SKAO

Six people clustered in a white room near a large black supercomputer cabinet with orange, red, yellow, and white Indigenous Australian art on the front.

Touring the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, and their new supercomputer Setonix (the scientific name for Quokka, a mammal native to Western Australia). Credit: Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre.

12 people standing outside in sunshine in front of signage for the building behind them, including the SKAO logo.

AIV team members meet with SKAO visitors and SKA-Low staff at the SKA-Low Science Operations Centre, Perth. Credit: SKAO.