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All systems go, say MeerKAT project leaders

New workshops, stores and offices taking shape at Klerefontein

The South African SKA site in the Karoo is currently a hub of construction activity, and plans are on track to deliver the 64 MeerKAT antennas by the end of 2016, says MeerKAT project manager, Willem Esterhuyse. “Antenna 1 will be installed by December 2013.”

“The project team is motivated to build the best telescope we can,” he said. (MeerKAT is one of the SKA precursor telescopes). “We are confident that we will build it to budget, and on schedule, while exceeding the original specifications.”

The work being done by the MeerKAT team is providing strong momentum to integrate MeerKAT into SKA Phase 1. Discussions about this integration are in progress between SKA SA and the International SKA project.

Site inspection by Riette Basson (architect); Anton Lourens (technical director at Aurecon) and Neels Hoek (SKA SA)

Various subsystems of MeerKAT are at the requirements review, or preliminary design review, stages. The full qualification, and critical design review, is expected to be completed early in 2014.

“Until the SKA is completed, MeerKAT will be the most sensitive radio interferometer in the world in the L-Band,” Esterhuyse explains. He noted that his team has been able to increase the sensitivity of its offset Gregorian dish design from 220 m2/K to 300 m2/K by using system and value engineering processes, without increasing overall cost. “This constitutes a 36% improvement in sensitivity, and an 86% improvement in survey speed, compared to the initial specifications!”

Infrastructure update

The upgrade to the Karoo substation in Carnarvon was completed and handed over to Eskom in December 2012.

Karoo Array Processor building and on-site power facility under construction

By mid-April 2013 the roads and civil works, as well as the electrical and fibre ducting reticulation for MeerKAT should be completed. At the same time construction teams are busy with extensions to the dish assembly shed, as well as the pedestal integration shed, Karoo Array processor building and on-site power facility.