The Square Kilometre Array is a technology project of superlatives and will be the biggest and most sensitive radio telescope in the next 50 years. The scientific capabilities promised by the SKA and its technological challenges provide an ideal base for interdisciplinary research, technology transfer, and collaboration between universities, research centres and industry. The SKA is on the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures since 2006 and has been recognised, with the E-ELT, as the essential facilities for European research in astronomy.
The SKA will be the world's premier imaging and surveying telescope that, with a combination of unprecedented versatility and sensitivity, will open up new windows of discovery space. The expected science return of an observatory like the SKA will be overwhelming, making not only fascinating discoveries on its own but also providing exceptional complementarity in the exploration of the Universe's most fundamental open questions. With the capabilities the SKA offers it will provide insight into the key science questions such as, the formation and evolution of the first stars and galaxies after the ``big bang'', the nature of gravity, the history of neutral hydrogen, the role of cosmic magnetism, and possibly life beyond Earth.
The SKA will be made out of two different types of antenna arrays and is the next generation radio-interferometer with superior surveying capabilities allowing to scan the Universe from 50 MHz up to tens of Giga Hertz. The data rates produced by the SKA (thousand times higher than the current world wide web) will trigger innovations and developments in information technology and novel techniques in data analysis and HPC computing. In the upcoming decade the SKA will be built in two phases in South Africa and Australia, whereas the headquarter remains in the United Kingdom. Between 2018 to 2023 a subsets of the SKA-MID- and SKA-LOW components will be constructed as Phase 1, before scaling up to the full SKA by the late 2020s. Early science can be expected as early as 2020.
The tendering and procurement of Phase 1 will take place in 2018. The call for tendering is in general open, but a just retour mechanism has been installed only considering industrial applications of SKA member countries.
Precursor Facilities of SKA
The SKA will benefit from a number of ongoing precursor facilities. These are the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) in Australia and MeerKAT in South Africa. German scientists are collaborating with all three SKA precursors, German companies play a major role in the construction of MeerKAT.