IT joined in 2008 the international efforts to design and construct the Square Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO) – the world’s largest radio telescope and one of the largest scientific endeavors in history - since its early concept design phase.
IT was the Portuguese node of the PrepSKA project (Preparatory Phase) and currently, IT coordinated the installation of SKA prototypes in the South of Portugal, the design and prototyping of the SKA Telescope Manager cyber-infrastructure, and the inclusion of Green Power solutions in the SKA ICT backbone ICT project through the work within the Enabling Green E-Science with SKA project (ENGAGE SKA), a national Research Infrastructure Consortium with Universities and assisted by an industrial Consortium with SMEs and Multinationals from ICT, Energy and Space sectors.
The technology roadmaps and the sciences cased developed led to a convincing case and in 2019 a major landmark was achieved: the SKA International Convention was signed by the Minister of Science and Technology on behalf of the Portuguese Government on 12 March 2019 in Rome. The ratification process passed through Parliament approval and with its ratification by January 2021 Portugal became one of the Founding Members of the SKA, the first time Portugal participates in a major large-scale big science organization since its creation!
SKAO Construction has since 2021 started with the deployment of about 200 antennas of 15-meter diameter in South Africa Karoo desert and about 139 000 dipole antennas spread over phased array stations in Western Australia desert connected to major supercomputing centers. These centers will preprocess and compress 1 Exabyte of data/year to be sent over a network of submarine cables to regional Data Centres spread around the world. Construction is expected to last until 2026 with the first science happening by 2024. A fact of interest: in the pre-construction phase, IT ENGAGE SKA clusters simulated and supported the Observatory Management and Control (OMC) system, providing resources to a few hundreds of engineers spread in software Scale Agile teams around the world and bringing industry cutting-edge standards of practice into a global science organization.
The SKA will be a science and engineering icon of the XXI century featured in school manuals around the globe: the SKA will be so sensitive that it will be able to detect an airport radar on a planet tens of light-years away and its data flow from the antennas to the on-site signal processor will be transferred 100,000 times faster than the projected global average broadband speed for '2022'. No doubt IT contributed to the science discovery window provided by SKA to Humankind.
Domingos Barbosa (IT Aveiro)