Connell Wagner to Boost Mega-Telescope Research

24 December 2002

Australia's efforts in the Square Kilometre Array telescope project are set to receive a boost, with consulting firm Connell Wagner joining the CSIRO lead consortium.

On Friday 20 December the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing its services to CSIRO, a member of the telescope consortium.

The Square Kilometre Array or SKA is a next-generation international radio telescope being planned by organisations from 11 countries, including Australia. Building it will be a 10-year, $A2 billion project.

"The SKA will be the most exciting global achievement ever made in radio astronomy," said Tony Barry, Connell Wagner Regional Manager. "We believe it will open up tremendous opportunities for the science and engineering communities in Australia, and we want to be a part of its development," he said.

The SKA will be designed to observe the formation of the first stars and galaxies in the Universe. It could also be used for deep-space communications and geodesy.

Hundreds of radio-receiving 'array-stations', each 250 m in diameter, will be spread over thousands of kilometres of country. A central cluster of array-stations will be linked to more distant ones by optic-fibre cabling.

"The SKA represents a huge jump in power and complexity from today's radio telescopes," said CSIRO SKA Program Leader Peter Hall.

"It will need advances in areas ranging from antenna engineering to data-mining techniques."

Australia's national SKA consortium has representatives from CSIRO, universities and the commercial sector. It encourages industry partners to become involved in the project.

Connell Wagner's contributions to the project will include an SKA siting and infrastructure study, a bid risk analysis, and financial evaluation.

Australia and some of the other countries involved in planning the SKA will bid to host the telescope. The telescope site will be decided in 2006.

CSIRO's Peter Hall said that Connell Wagner would make a tremendous contribution to the rigorous analyses of infrastructure that would be necessary in an Australian site bid.

"SKA researchers in Australia are drawn mainly from electronics and communications engineering," he said. "Connell Wagner will bring to the project the expertise in various fields of engineering that will be essential for developing realistic siting proposals."

"The contribution is very timely and could be decisive in formulating a successful Australian site bid."

"I am delighted that the firm has taken this initiative and have no doubt that it will encourage further industry participation," he said.

Connell Wagner will also contribute to the prototyping of one of the possible SKA antenna technologies, a spherical lens antenna (Luneburg lens) made from new synthetic materials.

The firm and its predecessor, MacDonald Wagner, have a long history of successful collaborative projects with CSIRO on antenna-related projects.

More information

Mr Tony Barry, Regional Manager, Connell Wagner
tel: +61 2 (0) 9465 5599

Mr Steve Negus, Senior Associate, Connell Wagner
tel: +61 2 (0) 9465 5599

Dr Peter Hall, CSIRO SKA Program Leader
Tel: +61 2 (0) 9372 4195 or + 61 2 (0)400 801 531