Spain joins SKA Observatory as full member

by Anim van Wyk on 05 April 2023
The SKA Observatory will shortly have a ninth member country after Spain completed the internal approval process to join the intergovernmental organisation. The country will contribute €41.4 million to the SKAO budget.

Besides representation in the SKAO Council, membership allows Spanish companies to bid for contracts to help build the two SKA telescopes under construction in Australia and South Africa. Industry in Spain is already earmarked to provide sub-reflectors for the SKA-Mid dishes and the equipment necessary to synchronise radio signals.

Spain’s astronomical community will also gain access to observations with the telescopes once the instruments are complete at the end of the decade. As it stands, Spanish astronomers are participating in 13 of the 14 SKA science working groups. The country is furthermore contributing to the development of the SKA Regional Centre (SRC) Network and currently runs an SRC prototype in the city of Granada.

“Spanish industry will thus increase its training in the multiple cutting-edge technologies and big data techniques that are essential for the operation of the SKA telescopes and that are being specifically developed to carry out this unique project,” the Spanish ministry of science and innovation said in a statement

Spain’s interest in the SKA project dates back to its earliest days in the 1990s. The country participated in the design of the telescopes and other preparatory work leading to its membership of the SKAO’s predecessor, the SKA Organisation, in 2018.

“Spain has been instrumental in the SKA project over the past decades,” said the SKAO’s Director-General, Prof. Phil Diamond. “Admitting the country as a full member is an important step as it broadens the Observatory’s footprint still further and expands the formal collaboration in our governance, engineering, and science. To all the Spanish astronomers, innovators, and policy-makers – welcome to the SKAO table.”

Prof. Philip Diamond holds the SKAO Convention in front of the Spanish and SKAO flags

The SKAO's Director-General, Prof. Philip Diamond, holds the Observatory Convention between the Spanish and SKAO flags.

Further comment

Diana Morant, Spanish minister of science and innovation:

"In Spain, we are committed to joining forces with the other member states of the SKAO to build a more powerful, innovative and transformative observatory that, through the use of cutting-edge technologies and big data techniques, is called to revolutionise astronomy. Besides, our contribution of more than €41 million to the SKAO will generate significant industrial activity for our companies centred on the construction of the telescopes."

Lourdes Verdes-Montenegro, researcher at IAA-CSIC and coordinator of Spanish participation in the SKAO:

"We are really grateful for the support of our SKAO colleagues over the years. It has been an amazing journey working together with the ministry, the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), and the astronomy community to reach this point, and we have thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way. We can now look forward to even more challenging and exciting activities in the future as members of the SKAO."

Rafael Bachiller, director of the Spanish National Astronomical Observatory and SKAO Council delegate: 

"The SKAO will be an unparalleled observatory with two unbeatable telescopes located in the best possible places on the planet. So becoming a full member of the SKAO will allow Spanish researchers to participate in one of the world's greatest scientific adventures of the near future.”