Spain joins the SKA Observatory to participate in the construction of the largest radioastronomy facility on the planet

The Spanish contribution to the project, which amounts to 41.4 million euros until 2030, will allow Spanish companies to participate in contracts of high technological value for the construction of this scientific infrastructure. The Institute de Astrophysics de Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) is responsible for the technical coordination of the Spanish participation in the project


The Council of Ministers has approved this Tuesday the accession of Spain as a full member of the SKA Observatory (SKAO), an intergovernmental organisation that is building two complementary world-class radiotelescopes that will constitute one of the largest and most ambitious scientific infrastructures on the planet.

The initial construction phase of the SKAO telescopes, covering the period from 2021 to 2030, will cost a total of 2,022 million euros. Spain will contribute a total of 41.4 million euros to this phase of the project, of which 7.9 million euros have already been paid between 2021 and 2022 (5.1 million euros from the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan). In 2023, €2.5 million from the national budget is foreseen.

The formalisation of Spain's incorporation into the SKAO as a full member now allows Spanish companies to participate in the contracts for the construction of the two radiotelescopes, thanks to the principle of return that applies in this international organisation.

The participation of Spanish companies in at least five SKAO construction contracts is currently guaranteed. Spain will be responsible, for example, for the manufacture of the sub-reflectors (secondary mirrors) for the parabolic antennas and the production of the equipment for the time synchronisation of the radiotelescope receivers.

Spanish industry will thus increase its expertise in the many cutting-edge technologies and big data techniques that are indispensable for the operation of the SKAO and that are being developed specifically for this unique project.

Moreover, thanks to this adhesion, Spanish scientists will be able to carry out pioneering radio astronomical observations at the front line, which are destined to lead to transformational discoveries in the study of the universe.

"We are really grateful for the support of our SKAO colleagues over the years. It has been amazing to have reached this point, and we have thoroughly enjoyed the journey to get there working together with the Ministry, the CDTI and the astronomy community. Now we can move forward with even more challenging and exciting activities as part of the SKAO", declare Lourdes Verdes-Montenegro (IAA-CSIC), coordinator of the Spanish participation in SKAO.

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SKAO telescopes: two innovative and revolutionary radiotelescopes

During the current construction phase, the member states of this intergovernmental organisation will agree on the contributions and the construction schedule for the next phase of the project.

The SKAO radio telescopes will consist of two arrays of hundreds of thousands of antennas of different types. The first array, dedicated to low-frequency antennas, will be located in the Murchison district of Western Australia, while the second, dedicated to medium and high frequencies, will be distributed in the Karoo Desert of South Africa.

When completed, the SKAO telescopes will be a colossal observatory: they will have tens of times the sensitivity, and thousands of times the observing speed, of the best radio astronomical facilities available today, and their performance will not be surpassed by any other radiotelescope for decades.

In addition to the scientific and technological challenges it will overcome, SKAO also faces an organisational and management challenge that is being addressed through close intergovernmental cooperation on a global scale, cooperation that will serve as a model for other large multinational projects.

Spain's participation in the SKA

Spain has been working on the design and preparatory tasks of the project since the 1990s together with the states that have already ratified the agreement establishing the SKAO - Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Switzerland - and those that are in the process of ratifying it - Germany, Canada, South Korea, France, India, Japan and Sweden.

The technical coordination of the Spanish participation in the project is the responsibility of the Institute de Astrophysics de Andalusia (IAA-CSIC), which belongs to the Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas), an organisation dependent on the Ministry of Science and Innovation, whose main role is to organise the national scientific community for its participation in the project.

There are currently astrophysicists from Spain involved in almost all the SKA science working teams, as well as in other groups, such as the energy supply options or the coordination of the regional centres.




Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC)
Unidad de Divulgación y Comunicación
Silbia López de Lacalle - sll[arroba] - 958230676