SWEDEN’s membership of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation will ensure the "finances are in place", SKA SA director Bernie Fanaroff said on Friday

Sweden, which will be represented by Onsala Space Observatory, is the latest country to join the SKA Organisation. The SKA is a giant radio telescope which will be shared between SA and Australia.

The target construction cost is R15bn, although other estimates place it closer to R23bn, with about R1bn annually in operations costs for 50 years. This will be funded by the SKA Organisation, although no construction pledges have been made.

There are now nine full members of the SKA Organisation: Sweden, Australia, Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, SA and the UK. It costs about R10m to join. "We’re pleased that another European country, with an interest in radio astronomy, wants to join.… It is important because it will make sure that the finances are in place," Dr Fanaroff said.

The chairman of the SKA Organisation board, Prof John Womersley, a UK physicist, said: "Onsala Space Observatory has a long history and expertise in radio astronomy, which will be a huge asset as we make the technology and engineering choices which will define how the SKA will work and what it will be able to do to transform our understanding of the universe."

Asked how the construction of the leviathan telescope, with thousands of receptors on two continents, would be funded, SKA Organisation spokeswoman Jo Bowler said that had not been finalised. "No commitments on the construction funding have been made yet, so the number of (member) countries … fund the organisation in the design phase. Once the design has been done, then they can cost it, and the pledges can be made."

Dr Fanaroff said that there were also other countries that had indicated interest.

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