PRETORIA, Feb 13 — The 64th and final foundation for South Africa’s MeerKAT Telescope antenna gas been completed at the site in Carnarvon in the Karoo, a vast semi-desert inland basin of the country.
Close to 5,000 cubic metres (m3) of concrete and more than 570 tons of steel were used to construct the foundations over the last nine months.
MeerKAT is the South African precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope, to be built in Africa and in Australia. The SKA Project is an international enterprise to build the largest radio telescope in the world.
“The completion of the foundations and the soon-to-be completed first antenna represents a major milestone in the building of the MeerKAT which will become an integral part of the SKA project,” said Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom at the completion of the foundation Tuesday.
“I am very pleased with the progress and the quality of the work that our scientists and engineers are delivering on this challenging assignment and wish them well with the enormous task ahead of meeting the tight schedule in the next two years,” he said.
Tracy Cheetham, the general manager for infrastructure and site operations at SKA South Africa, said: “The foundations were constructed to stringent specifications to ensure that the antennas will be exceptionally stable.
“Even at wind gusts of up to 69 kilometres per hour, scientists must be able to point the (satellite) dishes at distant celestial objects in an exact manner, and the antennas must be able to survive wind speeds of up to 144 kmph,” she added.
In order to meet these stability requirements, each foundation consists of eight steel-reinforced concrete piles at depths of between five and 10 metres, depending on the local soil conditions.
A square slab of concrete (5.2 m x 5.2 m, and 1.25 m thick) rests on top of the piles to add further stability. The 32 “holding down” bolts are pre-assembled in a circle to form a steel ring cage, or so-called “bird’s nest”, into which the concrete is cast.
All other MeerKAT infrastructure should be completed by the end of March this year.
“We are on the last leg now,” said Cheetham, who added that finishing touches are underway in the Karoo Array Processing Building (KAPB) and the power facility.
“The KABP, a specialised underground bunker protected from radio frequency interference, will house all the data processing racks and the power and back-up equipment required for MeerKAT,” she said.
The primary focus for the next two months will be on verifying that all infrastructure functions according to the required specifications.
Cheetham also said the ducting for the fibre optic cable has been completed, so all that is left now is for the optic fibre contractor, Plessey, to pull through and connect the cable.
Source: SA NEWS