Infrastructure Australia


Using the recently revised configuration of SKA1-low, INAU submitted cost updates (Capex and Opex) to the SKAO in early September 2016, along with ideas for possible savings in capital costs. The subsequent costings review went very well.

One potential capital costs reduction option under consideration by INAU (instead of running power out from a centralised power station) is to use small remote power stations, probably solar-battery, possibly with a small proportion of diesel backup, to power some outermost antenna stations and remote processing facilities. It is hoped that a cost saving can eventually be realised and the viability of this option will be come clearer as the detailed design process matures.

INAU has agreed with LFAA a scope for the trench that will carry tens of thousands of fibres coming from the core of the SKA1-low telescope to the Central Processing Facility. This trench will carry approximately 250 optic fibres cables (possibly as well as power, though this may be managed separately due to HSE issues). As a result, the “trench” is expected to be large and also to have some specialised design requirements to address safety of access and the logics of getting the fibres from the field into the building while allowing for future maintenance. The specifics of the design are currently under consideration and will be further defined as the final scope matures.

In early November INAU met with the Western Australian Office of the Environmental Protection Authority to provide a briefing on the scope of SKA1-low in Australia and to discuss the type of environmental studies and approvals that may be needed to allow construction to commence.

Also in November, INAU Lead Antony Schinckel and Senior Engineer Graham Allen escorted a group of six Aurecon infrastructure engineers to the proposed site of the core of the SKA1-low telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia. This group is responsible for the detailed design of SKA infrastructure in Australia. Some were involved in the design of the MRO control building and power distribution system, so it was useful for them to review the facilities after around five years’ continuous use. The group spent some time looking at technical details within the existing MRO control building, as well as roads and access tracks, antenna foundations, the airstrip and the power station.

Late November INAU and LFAA held a two-day workshop in Melbourne to progress matters of mutual interest such as power and fibre distribution design, prepared ground for the antennas, RFI requirements, the requirements for racks in the central and the remote processing facilities and cost saving ideas.


Infrastructure engineers from Aurecon join INAU consortium Lead Antony Schinckel at the proposed site of the core of SKA1‐low. Left to right: Angus Leitch, Matt Burley, Shandip Abeywickrema, Rebecca Greenaway, Antony Schinckel, James Massoud and Mark Davie. Photo by Graham Allen, CSIRO.

Report provided by the Infrastructure Australia consortium