Pretoria: The first Meerkat Dish support structure, manufactured in South Africa for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), is ready to be transported to the site in Carnavon, in the Northern Cape, where the construction of the SKA is taking place.
The structure has been put together by a South African company, Tricom Structures based in Pretoria. Tricom Structures’ Chief Executive Officer Sihle Shange today told the media that the structure is expected to be transported to Carnavon before the end of this month.
Shange said the structure took about two months to assemble, adding that they will be assembling two structures a month.
“We have design capability and we are confident that everything will be smooth,” he said. Tricom Structures specialises in designing structures.
Shaka Sebola, the company’s director, said in total they will assemble 64 structures. “We are satisfied that (the structures) will be able to assist the country and the continent in setting up the biggest satellite,” he said.
Sebola said he was confident that they will meet the deadline. Construction of the telescope is set to begin in 2016. The detailed design and pre-construction phase (2013 – 2015) will be followed by the construction of SKA Phase 1 – making up about 10% of the total instrument. Scientists should be able to use SKA Phase 1 for research by 2020. By that time construction on SKA Phase 2 should be underway (2018 – 2023) with full science operations commencing by 2024.
He said they will create more jobs should there be a need. The structure weighs about 25 tons and would need about two or more abnormal heavy duty trucks to transport it.
South Africa won the bid to host the SKA in Carnavon, in the Northern Cape. The SKA is one of the largest scientific projects in existence, aiming to create the largest radio telescope ever constructed.
Thousands of linked radio antenna will be located in Australia and in Southern Africa. It will operate over a wide range of frequencies and its size will make it 50 times more sensitive than any other radio instrument.