Canada becomes member of SKAO radio astronomy project

News release

Investment of $269 million opens new path for astronomical and technological discovery

June 3, 2024— Ottawa, ON—National Research Council of Canada

Worldwide collaboration is required to advance scientific discoveries, the fundamental understanding of our universe, and to build cutting-edge instrumentation—especially in fields such as astronomy. The Government of Canada is committed to providing Canadian astronomers with the tools and opportunities needed to be at the forefront of scientific research, further strengthening our reputation in astronomical discovery.

Today, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry is pleased to announce that Canada is now a member of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO). This membership is the culmination of more than 20 years of Canadian leadership and international collaboration in the Square Kilometre Array project. Once complete, the SKAO will be the world's largest radio astronomy observatory with an impact comparable to the James Webb Space Telescope or the Hubble Space Telescope.

Canada is investing $269 million over 8 years, through the National Research Council of Canada, as part of its membership in the SKAO. This investment will result in opportunities for Canadian industry and academic institutions to deliver key observatory systems and to ensure Canadian astronomers have access to one of the world's leading facilities.


"Canada has been a long-standing leader in astronomy and the exploration of the universe, and Canada's membership in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory will give Canadian researchers access to the world's most powerful radio-telescope. Beyond astronomical discovery, SKAO-related technologies have the potential to enhance the everyday life of Canadians, through better networks, and in other areas like more accurate and advanced driver assistance systems in cars."

– The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

"The National Research Council of Canada's Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre plays a leading role in Canada's international partnerships supporting scientific discovery and innovation in instrumentation for the astronomy community. Our membership in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory is the result of decades of collaboration and hard work. Canada has contributed greatly to defining and designing the new observatory since the 1990s. We are now poised to play a similarly critical role in its construction and scientific use."

– Mitch Davies, President, National Research Council of Canada

"Canada has been a valued partner within the SKA project for over 20 years, and I am delighted to welcome them as our newest member, extending the Observatory's membership into North America. Just over a year ago at the SKA-ngVLA meeting in Vancouver, I saw firsthand the enthusiasm among astronomers in Canada, particularly early career researchers who will be using the SKA telescopes. Now we can look forward to further deepening the ties between our colleagues there and the broader SKAO community as we progress through construction and into operations in the coming years."

– Prof. Phil Diamond, SKAO Director General

"It's the beginning of a new era for Canada, to finally be members of the SKA Observatory. Canada's membership is particularly exciting for early career researchers, as they will be the ones using the telescopes to change our understanding of the universe."

– Dr. Kristine Spekkens, Canadian SKA Science Director and Professor of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy at Queen's University

Quick facts

  • The National Research Council of Canada's Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre will represent Canada in the governance of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO).

  • Canada's investment is supporting contracts for Canadian industry. A prime example is MDA Space, which has been awarded the SKAO construction contract to develop and integrate the correlator and beamformer for the SKA-Mid telescope in South Africa.

  • Canadian contributions are also supporting an agreement between the Digital Research Alliance of Canada and the National Research Council of Canada to expand existing infrastructure to support Canada's SKA Regional Centre (SRC). The Canadian SRC will be part of an international effort to create a network of high-performance computing centres to support the scientific use of SKA data.

  • SKAO is a next-generation radio astronomy observatory, bringing together nations from around the world to build and operate cutting-edge radio telescopes in Australia and South Africa.

  • In addition to being an important project for astronomy and fundamental science, SKAO is considered by many to be the ultimate big data project.

  • Canada's major technological contributions to the SKAO will have spin-off applications in a variety of sectors such as digital signal and data processing and storage, telecommunications, medical imaging, as well as emerging quantum sectors.

  • Construction on phase 1 began in June 2021 and is expected to be completed by 2029.

Associated links


Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Media Relations
National Research Council of Canada

Media Relations
Cassandra Cavallaro
Content and Media Lead

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