First low-frequency antenna installed on Square Kilometre Array in Australia

First low-frequency antenna installed on Square Kilometre Array in Australia

The first of over 130,000 low-frequency antennas for the €2 billion (£1.7 billion) NEC-procured Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) was installed in Australia in March 2024.

The 2 m tall, tree-shaped antennas are now being erected on 512 sites at Murchison in Western Australia and are due to start operating in 2029. Together with nearly 200 mid-frequency 15 m diameter dishes in the Karoo region of South Africa, they will form the world largest radio telescope observatory.

The design of the low-frequency site was a collaboration between Australia, China, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK. Sirio Antenne of Italy was awarded the contract to manufacture the first 77,000 antennas under a €36 million NEC4 Supply Contract (SC). In South Arica, components for the first dishes arrived on site from China in February and assembly is now under way.

Variety of NEC4 contracts

Construction of access roads, antenna foundations, work camps, power networks, fibre networks and process facilities at each site have been let under either NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) Option A (priced contract with activity schedule) or Option E (cost reimbursable).

A variety of NEC4 Framework Contract (FC), Professional Service Contract (PSC), Term Service Contract (TSC) and short form contract awards have also been made to suppliers in the 16 countries that contribute to SKAO.

SKA-Low telescope director Sarah Pearce said, ‘The telescopes are like time machines – we’ll see things we’ve never been able to see in the history of humanity. The SKA-Low telescope in Australia will be able to map the sky 135 times faster than other state-of-the-art telescopes, and will be so sensitive that it can detect the faintest radio signals that have travelled billions of light years across space.’

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