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Australia to host world’s largest telescope

Image Credits: Space Connect, News Article

The Australian Minister for Industry, Science, and Technology confirmed that Australia has ratified the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory Convention. Under the convention, WA will host 130,000 antennas and South Africa 200 dishes – together making the telescope that will allow astronomers to view the cosmos in more detail than ever before.

The country will be a host of the world’s largest scientific instrument, which will help shape our understanding of the beginning of the universe.

Australia is the fourth country to ratify the SKA Observatory Convention. The Australian component of the SKA, SKA-Low, will be the world’s most sensitive low-frequency radio telescope.

Not only does the project further cement Australia’s reputation for science and research and boost its international standing in radio astronomy, but it also has the potential to create 200 construction jobs in regional Western Australia and Perth and a further 100 permanent positions.

Hosted at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, it will initially comprise more than 130,000 antennas spread over 65 kilometres in remote Western Australia. The SKA will also boost Australia’s advanced manufacturing sector, enabling local businesses to partner with international counterparts and design and build high-tech telescope components.

The WA Minister for Science stated that the move marks an important milestone for the SKA Observatory Convention and for Western Australia’s role in co-hosting one of the biggest science projects in human history. Australia’s ratification of the convention enhances Western Australia’s position as a global hub for radio astronomy and will offer significant economic and job-creating opportunities for the state.

Just over a decade ago, there were only a handful of astronomers working in WA and now there are around 135 astronomers, 25 engineers and 25 data scientists working in WA on the SKA project and in astronomical research, with more to come. The project is expected to move into the construction phase in mid-2021.

Australia investing in space tech

As part of a joint effort between the Royal Australian Air Force, DEWC Systems, Southern Launch and T-minus engineering, a DART rocket carrying a Defence payload was launched from Koonibba Test Range in South Australia, marking the first commercial rocket launch to the edge of space from Australia.

At 10:09 am on 19 September 2020, Southern Launch ignited Australia’s first commercial space-capable rocket at the Koonibba Test Range north-west of Ceduna in South Australia. And in a second first for Australia, only an hour and 40 minutes later at 11:49 am a second space capable launch was safely completed. A recovery effort is currently underway to locate the DEWC-SP1 payloads and DART rocket stages.

At just 3.4 metres long and weighing 34 kilograms, the DART rocket is a fraction of the size of rockets launched by NASA and SpaceX. This successful launch makes a great start for the DART vehicle with rocket manufacturer T-Minus Engineering keen on getting more rockets off the ground in Australia and around the World.

The Minister for Defence noted that space is an increasingly important domain. This is why the government is investing $7 billion over the next decade in space capabilities as part of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan.

The rocket will carry a prototype radio frequency receiver unit designed for Air Force. Air Force’s Plan Jericho has sponsored this prototype, developed by DEWC Systems, and marks an exciting future for Australia’s space capability.

The payload, carried on a DART rocket, provides a stepping stone for Air Force to explore how advanced rapidly deployable networked sensors can be employed to provide information across Defence networks. The DART rocket launch is a partnership between government and industry, demonstrating future opportunities for both commercial and government applications.

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