Explore

Our Construction Journey

The Construction Journey

After eight years of detailed design work and in-depth reviews by independent experts, June 2021 saw the SKAO Council approve the start of construction activities for the SKA telescopes.

At the end of 2022, the SKAO has reached another major milestone with the celebration of the Construction Commencement Ceremonies, that took place simultaneously in Australia and South Africa. Details of these activities and celebrations are below in the various cards.

Prof. Philip Diamond

We've been on a multi-decade journey and I am so excited to see construction starting in earnest.

Author of quote:Prof. Philip DiamondSKAO Director-General

Video on the global effort to build the SKA telescopes, marking the Construction Commencement Ceremonies taking place on 5 December 2022 in Australia and South Africa. Subtitles are burned into this video.

You can read what the world has been saying about the Construction Commencement Ceremonies in the various releases in the list opposite.

Meet those helping build the world's largest radio telescope

We are honoured to take part in this exciting and challenging scientific project. Since 2017 we have been working and collaborating intensely with INAF and the SKAO to develop a product that could best fulfil characteristics and performances suitable to satisfy such an important task and it's incredible how the project on paper has finally become true.

Author of quote:Stefania GrazioliSIRIO Antenne CEO

The start of construction of the SKA telescopes and signature of the dish structure agreement marks a great milestone. The CETC54 team is honoured to take part in this mega science project. I would like to express my thanks to everyone involved in making this possible, from our technical team and cooperation partners from South Africa, Germany and Italy to the colleagues and friends from SKAO and the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Author of quote:Wang FengCETC SKA Office Vice Director

We are thrilled to be partnering with the SKAO on this exciting and world-leading endeavour. To support the delivery of this project, nearly 100 new roles will be created for the Wajarri people and locals in the mid-west region of Western Australia. As Australia and New Zealand’s leading telecommunications infrastructure service provider, our strategy is to redefine service excellence by being client-focused, innovative and sustainable.

Author of quote:Mark RalstonVentia Group Executive - Telecommunications

The SKA project is truly a project of global importance and literally universal impact. Adenco Construction is proud to be associated with and working on the SKA project and being part of a South Africa and Africa based project working with a team of international experts.

Author of quote:Kashif WicombChief Executive Adenco Construction

The SKAO’s member states firmly believe in the potential for scientific discovery to contribute to advances in technology and innovation, and to deliver a broader benefit for industry and society. As such, they have made impact on society core to the mission of the observatory since its inception. 

The construction timeline

Construction of the SKA telescopes will take eight years (including 18 months contingency), having begun in July 2021 following approval by the SKAO Council. The telescopes will be delivered in phases, within an ambitious timeline as detailed in the table below.

The first major milestone, known as Array Assembly 0.5, is due to be reached in early 2024 with the completion of six SKA-Low stations and four SKA-Mid dishes. A further four Array Assembly milestones will see construction progress rapidly on both sites, with the completion of Array Assembly 4 - two full arrays - expected around 2028.

The commissioning process, which tests that components work together as a system, will take place as we progress through each Array Assembly stage. Science verification will also begin while the telescopes are still under construction, carrying out end-to-end tests of the system based on proposals for astronomical observations from the SKAO user community. Commissioning and science verification ensure that the telescopes meet users' needs; carrying them out as each Array Assembly is constructed means any required adjustments can be made as early as possible in the process, minimising the risks as much as possible.

Following the completion of Array Assembly 4, expected in 2027 for both telescopes, a final Operations Readiness Review will take place. The formal end of construction is scheduled for July 2029.

 

Collage showing the SKA-Mid dish prototype and the SKA-Low antenna station prototype, the latter with Dr Maria Grazia Labate assessing one of the antennas
Prototypes for SKA-Mid (top) and SKA-Low (bottom) on site in South Africa and Australia.

Key project milestones

 

SKA-Low

SKA-Mid

Start of construction (T0)

JULY

2021

JULY

2021

Earliest start of major contracts (C0)

AUGUST

2021

AUGUST

2021

Array Assembly 0.5 finish (AA0.5)

SKA-Low = 6-station array

SKA-Mid = 4-dish array

FEBRUARY

2024

MARCH

2024

Array Assembly 1 finish (AA1)

SKA-Low = 18-station array

SKA-Mid = 8-dish array

FEBRUARY

2025

FEBRUARY

2025

Array Assembly 2 finish (AA2)

SKA-Low = 64-station array

SKA-Mid = 64-dish array, baselines mostly <20km

FEBRUARY

2026

DECEMBER

2025

Array Assembly 3 finish (AA3)

SKA-Low = 256-station array, including long baselines

SKA-Mid = 133-dish array, including long baselines

JANUARY

2027

SEPTEMBER

2026

Array Assembly 4 finish (AA4)

SKA-Low = full Low array

SKA-Mid = full Mid array, including MeerKAT dishes

NOVEMBER

2027

JUNE

2027

Operations Readiness Review (ORR)

JANUARY

2028

DECEMBER

2027

End of construction

JULY

2029

JULY

2029

Pre-construction development

Designing the SKA telescopes was a global effort by 12 international engineering consortia, representing hundreds of engineers and scientists in 20 countries over almost eight years in total. The international design process was overseen by the SKA Organisation, the SKAO's forerunner.

The engineering design consortia were responsible for the look and functionality of the different elements of the SKA project, ensuring that they would all perform together. Nine of the consortia focused on components of the telescope, each critical to the overall success of the project, while three others focused on developing advanced instrumentation for the telescopes and future systems. Each consortium had a designated lead institution, and operated in conjunction with a specialist project manager, domain specialists at the SKA Organisation Headquarters in the UK, and science working groups. Overall, some 600 experts were involved around the world in designing the SKA telescopes, including all systems and sub-systems.

Explore the different elements and the people behind them on our pre-construction design website.