Representatives of leading Italian and Australian science institutions met in Perth yesterday to formally enter into a partnership to take the next steps toward the world’s largest telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) will work together, combining complementary technologies and skills from both organisations, to advance SKA designs prior to full construction of the giant international telescope in around 2020.

The SKA will be established in Western Australia in the form of 130,000 individual radio antennas spread over thousands of square kilometres in the Murchison, 800 km north of Perth. A second facility will be established in South Africa, and the SKA Headquarters will be located in Manchester, UK. Phase 1 of the SKA will have a construction cost of around $1.1 billion.

At the signing ceremony at Curtin University, INAF Scientific Director, Dr. Filippo Zerbi, said INAF is highly committed to developing both the engineering and astrophysics required to explore the universe with the SKA over the coming decades.

“INAF has developed antennas and electronics for the SKA and we are very pleased to be partnering with our Australian colleagues in this quest,” Dr. Zerbi said.

Curtin University John Curtin Distinguished Professor Steven Tingay said the teams from INAF and ICRAR-Curtin University have worked together closely over the last five years, including on the ground in the heat of the remote Murchison region.

“We have forged a very special relationship and I look forward to strengthening that relationship via this agreement,” Professor Tingay said.

The work that has involved INAF and ICRAR-Curtin University over the last five years now culminates in a Critical Design Review (CDR) to be held in December.

After CDR, ICRAR-Curtin University and INAF will finalise and verify the designs and lead the testing of those designs, over the course of 2019. This collaboration will be supported by $1m in funding from INAF and matching funding from Curtin University, with assistance from the Australian Government.

As well as INAF and ICRAR-Curtin University, the work will rely on industry partners in Western Australia, from around Geraldton and Perth, and industry partners in Italy. The project will provide opportunities for Western Australian and Italian industries to participate, and work together, in the next phase of SKA development, toward major construction activities.

The project will be coordinated by the SKA Organisation (SKAO) Headquarters, based in Manchester and will potentially also involve other technical teams from Australia (including the CSIRO), the UK, the Netherlands, and China. The work will exist within a large body of work coordinated by the SKAO that will involve all 12 SKA Member countries in the lead-up to construction.


Lucien Wilkinson
Media Consultant, Curtin University
(08) 9266 9185, cell: 0401 103 683

Lauren Sydoruk
Media Consultant, Curtin University
(08) 9266 4241, cell: 0401 103 373

Curtin University ( is Western Australia’s largest university, with more than 56,000 students. Of these, about 26 percent are international students. The University’s main campus is in Bentley near the Perth CBD. Curtin also has a major regional campus in Kalgoorlie in addition to four global campuses in Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai and Mauritius. Curtin is ranked in the top one percent of universities worldwide, with the University placed in the top 200 globally and 9th in Australia according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) 2018. The University has built a reputation around innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit, being at the forefront of many high-profile research projects in astronomy, biosciences, economics, mining and information technology. It is also recognised globally for its strong connections with industry, and for its commitment to preparing students for the jobs of the future.

INAF is the Italian national research organisation for astronomy and astrophysics, controlled by MIUR, the Italian Ministry for Education, University and Research. It is the lead organisation in Italy for technical and scientific activities relevant to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project. The President of INAF and the INAF Scientific Director (the signatory of this Agreement) represent Italy on the SKA Organisation (SKAO) Board of Directors.

The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia with support and funding from the State Government of Western Australia.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by the SKA Organisation based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester, UK. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve our understanding of the universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility. The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes, called an array, to be spread over long distances. The SKA will be constructed in Australia and South Africa; with a later expansion in both countries and into other African countries. Already supported by 12 countries — Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom — the SKA Organisation has brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers and more than 100 companies and research institutions in the design and development of the telescope.