SA committed to SKA


South Africa is committed to hosting the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), says Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor. Speaking at an SKA meeting held in Banff, Canada, Pandor told delegates at the meeting that much work has been done.

“South Africa’s own national commitment to advancing the SKA project has been cemented in all spheres of our Government, including at the provincial level,” she said. “We have chosen an exceptionally good site for the SKA in a remote region of South Africa, a region with very little economic activity. We have provided statutory protection for the site through the Geographic Astronomy Advantage Act,” she said.

The SKA is a multibillion rand international radio telescope that will be between 50 and 100 times more sensitive than any instrument ever built in Africa, the state BuaNews agency reports. South Africa has partnered with several other African countries – Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia – in the bid to host the SKA.

If South Africa wins the bid, it stands to gain international recognition in the fields of science and technology. Pandor said important milestones related to MeerKAT have been achieved, many of them ahead of schedule. “Our progress has allowed us to plan to publish tenders for MeerKAT at the end of this year,” she said. MeerKAT is South Africa’s precursor telescope to the SKA and will consist of 64 dishes, each 13.5m in diameter.

Pandor also said South Africa is committed to providing the world with the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere until the SKA is completed. “We hope that the immense potential of MeerKAT will not be ignored when the most efficient and cost-effective roll-out for the Phase One of SKA is considered,” she said. South Africa is currently competing with Australia in hosting the SKA, BuaNews said.