Telescope project advances

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 08 Sept 2008

BAE Systems Land Systems Dynamics - previously IST Dynamics - is readying to build seven radio dishes for the Department of Science and Technology's (DST's) Karoo Array Telescope (KAT).

KAT is the precursor to the 80-dish, R900 million MeerKAT project.

Set for deployment at Carnarvon, in the Northern Cape, MeerKAT will be the basis for SA's bid for the 1.5 billion-euro, 3 000- to 5 000-dish Square Kilometre Array (SKA) that will be built in five years' time.

SKA project head Dr Bernie Fanaroff has called the development the world's largest IT project.

KAT project leader Anita Loods says the contract to build the 12m composite material dishes was recently awarded to IST Dynamics - now part of the BAE Systems group.

The dishes are to be based on a 15m prototype, currently deployed at the DST's Hartebeeshoek facility.

Loods says the dishes - which are too large to move by public road - will be constructed on site near Carnarvon, as soon as the facilities required are constructed. Building is currently under way.

The Land Systems Dynamics design for the 12m dishes - a world first - will undergo a critical design review later this month.

A scale model of the MeerKAT prototype, as well as visual representation of how the telescope will operate, will be displayed at the DST's International Science, Innovation and Technology Exhibition in Sandton next week.

"The technology to build and operate KAT has been developed by teams of local engineers and software specialists in collaboration with international partners, proving SA is a preferred science and technology investment destination," SKA spokesperson Kim de Boer recently said.

Related stories:
BAE Systems completes IST merger
Space Bill reaches Parliament
SKA decision may be political
Sleepy Carnarvon to host supercomputer?
MeerKAT takes shape