Final SKA Engineering Design Meeting Kicks Off in Shanghai

by Mathieu Isidro on 25 November 2019
Around 250 engineers, scientists and industry representatives as well as government officials and members of the press from across the SKA community and beyond have gathered in Shanghai, China for the SKA‘s sixth global project conference related to Engineering. Titled “Concluding our Past, Realising our Future” the meeting is set to open a new chapter in the SKA’s 25-year history.
Shanghai delegates
2019 SKA Shanghai Meeting participants at the Wanda Reign on the Bund Hotel. Front and centre are Prof. Philip Diamond, SKA Director-General, and to his left Vice-Minister of the Chinese Ministry of Science & Technology Huang Wei. Credit: SKA Organisation

Co-hosted by the SKA Organisation and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, the four-day meeting is being attended by experts from 19 countries, including those working at precursor, pathfinder and peer facilities.

Traditionally focused on engineering & design, this year the conference will for the first time shift to discussion of construction and operation of the world’s largest radio telescope, with a packed agenda covering topics ranging from procurement to commissioning and operations, as well as daily science talks summarising the major areas of astrophysics that will benefit from the SKA.

“This meeting comes after six years of hard work,” said Tim Stevenson, Head of Mission Assurance for the SKA and responsible for organising this year’s meeting. “We are moving from discussing how to build the SKA to how we are going to operate it, so it is an exciting time for everyone involved. There is a real sense that this is happening.”

For China, a major partner in the SKA project and a co-host of this year’s meeting, the meeting is also an opportunity to highlight the strong commitment from the Chinese government, as well as the Chinese scientific community and industry, to the project.

“As an important contributor, designer and developer, China supports and participates in the operation and management of SKAO, joins hands with all other member countries to promote the establishment of the intergovernmental organisation, and takes an active part in the design, research and development of the project by contributing Chinese technology and proposals”, Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology Vice-Minister Huang Wei told delegates during his opening address.

Going forward, China is willing to share the obligations and tackle the challenges with all other member countries to jointly push forward the construction and operation of SKA, added Huang.

For the first time, attendees will get a look at the overall engineering picture of the SKA – the combined design of all the different elements of the two SKA telescopes – until now only seen as separate parts delivered by the SKA’s various international engineering consortia.

The preview comes ahead of the SKA System Critical Design Review, which takes place in just two weeks’ time at SKA Global Headquarters in the UK.

“For six years, hundreds of international experts have worked to deliver the nine key elements that form the SKA’s design” said Andrea Casson, Head of Project Management Group for the SKA “so it’s very exciting to see it all come together here in Shanghai for the first time ahead of the final review.”

Commenting on the meeting’s diversity of participants, SKA Director-General Prof. Philip Diamond said “I’m particularly delighted to see new faces here in Shanghai representing industry, learning about the many possibilities for their companies to contribute to the SKA. We’re now on the brink of procurement and construction, and the momentum that has been building for some time will soon be realised in contracts and in hardware.

“The discussions happening now between existing SKA contributors and potential industrial partners are part of the final push to make the SKA a reality on the ground.”

Watch China’s Ministry of Science and Technology Vice-Minister Huang Wei discuss what it means to be part of the international collaboration that is the SKA.

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