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Australia designs infrastructure for world’s largest telescope

Australian engineers and scientists are collaborating with 12 countries from around the world to build the world’s largest radio telescope.

500 scientists and engineers from 20 different countries have come together to design the telescope called the Square Kilometre Array or SKA.

Overarching infrastructure for the project in Australia and South Africa has now been approved.

The Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and industry partner Aurecon have joined together to design Australian infrastructure. The project will be made at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in remote Western Australia.

The worldwide billion-dollar project will require the installation of up to 132,000 antennae at the Murchison site, spread across 2000 square kilometres of land. The antennae will be connected by 65,000 fibre optic cables, which will link them back to a single data processing facility.

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The low-frequency antennae are expected to receive staggering amounts of data. The data will flow in at petabits, a million billion bits per second, more than the global internet rate today. All of this data will flow into the purpose-built data processing facility.

The team have to come up with innovative shielding techniques to reduce the level of radio emissions and ensure they don’t interfere with the radio quiet zone at the Murchison site.

“CSIRO and Aurecon have delivered world-class designs, and the collaboration between the Australian and South African infrastructure consortia is a great example of the massive global effort behind the SKA project,” Australian SKA director David Luchetti said.

The design work for the project was funded by the Australian Government and the European Union.

Luchetti is confident the SKA will generate many benefits that are not yet clear and wants to ensure Australia is best placed to capture those benefits.

There are still design packages to be completed and approved in other countries. Once this stage is finished there will be a critical design review for the entire SKA system ahead of the creation of the construction proposal.

Construction is expected to begin in 2020.