SA will benefit as construction of the world’s largest telescope progresses

  • The construction of the world’s largest telescope – the Square Kilometer Array – is gaining momentum.
  • So far, 27 contracts worth approximately 1.6 billion rand have been awarded and bids have been opened for five contracts worth 1.8 billion rand.
  • The construction of the SKA Building is expected to bring social and economic benefits to South Africa, such as job creation and skills development.

Infrastructure work at the site of the world’s largest radio telescope – the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) – hosted by Karoo in South Africa is expected to begin in 2022.

The intergovernmental project organized by South Africa and Australia is gaining momentum since member states agreed to start construction In June 2021. The decision came after the establishment of the SKA observatory in 2021, which represents the joint effort of member states working to build radio telescopes.

This would be the world’s most advanced network of radio telescopes, gathering information from an area of ​​nearly one square kilometer. Due to its size, it is “50 times more sensitive” and 10,000 times faster than current radio telescopes. according to South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO). The scale of the project ensures innovation in science and technology.

SKA is said to be able to answer some basic questions about the universe, such as how galaxies evolved and whether there is life.

SKA, headquartered in the United Kingdom, oversees the construction and operation of the project in South Africa and Australia. The founding member states are Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

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Radio telescopes are made from antenna dishes – located in Karoo near the town of Carnavon in the Northern Cape. The outstations will also be located in other parts of South Africa and eight African partner countries such as Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. According to SARAO, the other part of the telescope will be built in Western Australia.

Meerkat Radio Telescope in South Africa, with 64 records, already outside of Carnavon, will be included in SKA Phase 1. I mentioned earlier, Business Insider The first phase of the project will add 130 new dishes to MeerKAT and 130,000 antennas in Australia. According to SARAO, there are a total of 197 dishes.

The purchase of SKA telescopes has already begun and so far 27 contracts worth 90 million euros (about 1.6 billion rand) have been awarded to seven founding countries. Most contracts relate to software development and professional services. According to the SKA website, five infrastructure contracts worth more than 100 million euros (about 1.8 billion rand) are currently open for tender. These contracts cover housing, road access, wireless and fiber communications, and energy that must be in place before construction begins on the sites.

By the end of the year, approximately 85% of the 60 Tier 1 contracts are expected to be awarded to the project, and more than €500 million (about €8.8 billion) in construction financing will be committed.

The total cost of the project is expected to be 2 billion euros (about 35 billion rand) – the equivalent of construction and the first 10 years of operation.

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Construction is expected to continue until 2028, according to SKA website. The scientific life of the telescopes will be 50 years or more.

From a development perspective, the project will create jobs – not only in construction, but also in operation and maintenance. It is also expected to spark interest in mathematics, engineering, and astrophysics as subject areas. The project’s South African branch has already awarded grants and grants to more than 700 people.

After signing the hosting agreements In October 2021, the Director General of the Department of Science and Innovation, Dr. We believe that construction will bring enormous social and economic benefits. These include job creation, industrial development and skills development.

Megan Vasquez

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