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SKA team completes key infrastructure designs

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The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes, called an array, to be spread over long distances.
The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes, called an array, to be spread over long distances.

After five years, two engineering consortia have completed all the essential infrastructure designs required for construction of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

This is according to science and technology minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, detailing the latest progress concerning the flagship project.

These latest developments follow last year's launch of the MeerKAT, the 64-dish SKA precursor telescope.

The South African consortium, Infrastructure South Africa (INSA), was led by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), which designed, built and operates MeerKAT.

The SKA project is an international effort to build the world's largest radio telescope, led by the SKA Organisation.

The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of thousands of antennas to be spread over 3 000km. It will be built in two main phases: phase one in SA and Australia; and phase two expanding into other African countries, with the component in Australia also being expanded.

Once it is completed, the radio telescope will conduct transformational science to improve the understanding of the universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

In a statement, the science and technology ministry, which is spearheading the project, says following the successful review of the key infrastructure components, the project will now move on to the bridging phase.

According to the department, this phase will bring together all the individual detailed designs of elements of the SKA and integrate them on a system level.

A system-critical design review will be conducted in December, after which the project will enter the procurement phase, followed by construction, once the establishment of the SKA organisation has been concluded.

Kubayi-Ngubane expressed delight with the progress of the engineers who are part of the SKA project.

"SARAO, led by the National Research Foundation, has provided world-class infrastructure for the MeerKAT, which has already attracted other international radio astronomy instruments to the SKA site in SA.

"I have no doubt the expertise and best practice developed during the delivery of this precursor telescope enabled the INSA consortium to meet the SKA organisation's stringent standards for infrastructure design."

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