MPA complete


Construction of the MeerKAT Precursor Array (MPA) in the Groot Karoo has been completed with the successful assembly of the final dish, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) says. The MPA, previously the KAT-7 (Karoo Array Telescope) was erected at a remote site some 5km north of Klerefontein, itself about 78km north of Carnarvon.

The MPA, consisting of seven 12-metre 4.5mt dishes, is the prototype for a larger 80-dish MeerKAT (more-than-KAT) that is scheduled to be completed by December 2012 and commissioned in 2013. MeerKAT is set to cost R860 million and forms part of the R1.6 billion budget Cabinet last year approved for the country to win the right to host the 3000 to 5000-dish 1.5 billion euro (R160 billion) Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The DST says the seventh BAE Systems-built dish was completed in January. Science and Technology minister plans to visit the MPA next Tuesday along with journalists and the Premier of the Northern Cape, Hazel Jenkins.
“The achievement also clearly demonstrates Africa’s existing capabilities in science and technology and positions the continent more favourably to host the telescope as a collective of African partner countries (Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, Kenya, Ghana and Zambia), the DST said in a media release today.
“The [MPA] will serve as both an engineering test-bed and as an operational radio telescope. The MeerKAT will be one of the largest scientific research facilities in the world and will consolidate Africa as a major global hub for astronomy in the world. It will attract the best scientists and engineers to work in Africa and will provide unrivalled opportunities for scientists and engineers from across Africa to engage with transformational science and cutting-edge instrumentation, as well as to collaborate in joint projects with the most renowned universities and research institutions in the world.”

The first dish was erected in July last year, South African SKA Project director Dr Bernie Fanaroff has previously told defenceWeb. MeerKAT and the SKA are expected to have a service life of at least 30 years.

Pic: A MPA dish being erected with other dishes in te fore- and background