An international panel of experts has declared that the MeerKAT radio telescope being built by the SA team preparing SA’s bid for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) has passed its “preliminary design review” with “distinction”.
MeerKAT is a 64-dish radio telescope — each dish is 13,5m in diameter — being constructed in the Karoo Astronomy Reserve in the Northern Cape. The latest review follows the passing of the MeerKAT “concept design review”, carried out by another international panel in July 2010.
The latest review was carried out in Cape Town by a panel consisting of radio astronomers from India, the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Chile and Australia. The panel was convened to evaluate all aspects of the design of MeerKAT, the system engineering development process, risk potential and satisfaction of user requirements.
The panel said the team working on MeerKAT had an “intelligent approach towards systems engineering, looking after the fundamental technology development, while at the same time implementing formal procedures”. It highlighted the “thorough approach towards the design of the infrastructure for the telescope”.
The review pointed out risks that would need to be addressed, particularly the need to ensure that mechanical and structural tolerances could be achieved at reasonable cost and the need for continued care to avoid self-generated radio frequency interference. It concluded that there were no “unacceptably high risks” and that the project had a well-defined risk management structure.
Tenders would be issued from October 2011 for the construction of the infrastructure for the telescope, including roads, power and fibre-optic reticulation, as well as buildings and foundations for the dishes.
Components with long lead items, such as the antenna structures, would go out soon as requests for information.
The news followed an earlier announcement that the KAT-7 telescope is reaching engineering completion. With the completion of KAT-7, the project team would focus on the construction of the bigger MeerKAT.
MeerKAT will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere until the completion of the SKA in 2024. — Staff reporter, TechCentral