Infrastructure Australia


1881 . That is the number of days since the Square Kilometre Array Organisation (SKAO) and Infrastructure Australia (INAU) met to kick-off the pre-construction phase design for SKA1 in October 2013 (to the time of writing this article).

5 . The number of global Engineering Meetings held, starting with Old Trafford in Manchester in 2013, Fremantle, Penticton, Stellenbosch and Rotterdam.

2 . For the number of full independent design reviews undertaken. The Preliminary Design Review (PDR) in February 2015 and the Critical Design Review (CDR) in June 2018.

1 . The number of outstanding actions, being the preparation of this article!

The INAU teamled by CSIRO and Aureconhad previously successfully collaborated on various antenna related project from a design study in the early 1980s,for what was to become the Australia Telescope,right the way through to Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) project.

Designing the SKA-low infrastructure has been immensely challenging – both from a purely engineering perspective and from a project management view:

From an engineering perspective itwasdue to the unusual constraints required to support such a sensitive radio telescope in outback Australia in a way that does not interfere with the radio signals coming from the Universe. Through a highly collaborative team approach that encouraged innovation, we have designed:

  • Infrastructure over a large site area where none currently exists. The infrastructure designedcovers a 40 km radius and includes roads and tracks, fibre and power distribution, communications, site monitoring, and buildings.
  • The Central Processing Facilityprotects the radio quiet environment at the remote site andis a unique building with the primary function of receiving the Petabits of data per second on over 65,000 fibre optic cables from the 132,000 antennas and housesthe custom data processing systems. The building design includes a fully welded, double shielded enclosure to prevent the RFI from the electronic and electrical equipment contained inside the building from interfering with the sensitive receiving antennas outside. The building is designed to be pre-fabricated and brought to site in modules in response to the logistics associated with the site’s remote location. This method will keep site labour costs down and minimise the potential quality risks associated with remote building construction. The building design was optimised and modelledusingBuilding Information Modelling (BIM), a softwareapproachthatalsogives stakeholders the ability to ‘walkthrough’ the building in a virtual environment.BIMallowed testing and amendments to the building components, usability and layouts in real time.
  • Ground preparation for the antennas and the road designs utilising construction techniques consistent with the general practice in the Murchison area. Cleared areas have been kept to a minimum, and existing tracks or previous routes will be retained as far as possible to minimise disturbance to vegetation and the natural lay of the land.

From a project management view wasbecause of the complexities around a collaboration involving a dozen countries, over a hundred institutes and companies spread over almost all the time zones on the planet. The collaboration and interactions with the many groups involved, especiallytheInfrastructure South AfricaConsortium, has been a real pleasure and learning experience for us.

But of course it isn’t the end for Infrastructure Australia – we now morph into a group supporting the Bridging activities.

Finally, INAU thanks all the many people who helped get it to this point – but in particular would like to thank Martin Austin, ourEPM in the Office, who has shown great tolerance of our foibles and maintained his sense of humour in the face of our obstinacy on many topics. Thanks for challenging us and keeping us on the straight and narrow!

Report provided by the Infrastructure Australia consortium