Work begins on SKA details

'PICKING SITE WAS EASY PART' NOW that it is known where the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is to be hosted, the hard work can begin, say two lead members of the SKA SA project team. It was announced on Friday that SA, with eight African partner countries, would host the project with Australia, paired with New Zealand. But it is SA that is to get the lion's share of the R16 billion project. SA had been chosen as the preferred location, but members of the SKA Organisation wanted to benefit from the infrastructure that was in place in Australia. Bernie Fanaroft SKA SA project director, said yesterday that while it would have been preferable not to share SKA, he was pleased with the decision.
"We obviously would have liked to host SKA. But the result is that the two most important components of the SKA will be in Africa. "We're very happy to be the major player. We are very happy with the decision." The two major components are the 2 500 satellite dishes - and the mid-frequency aperture arrays. Australia is to host the hundreds of low-frequency antennas. "But now the hard work starts. In a sense this was the easy part," said Fanaroff. "We've got to work out the engineering aspects, the detailed costings and the implementation process. And of course the funding has to be worked out." The money was to come from many international funding agencies and countries, Fanaroff said.
Justin Jonas, head of physics at Rhodes University and SKA SNs associate director of science and engineering, said he had felt relieved when he heard the news. "It's been a long journey. I've been involved with this project for 10 years and this is the fruition. It's very gratifying. We've put the work in and we've got the result." Jonas said the decision was in no way a compromise with Australia as the low-frequency antenna array would in any case have had to be located at a separate site. "We hadn't been worried and were quietly confident. This is a huge milestone we've passed. The project has been on hold while we've waited for a site decision. Now we can get down and do some work." The SKA Organisation said most of its members had been in favour of a dual-site implementation model for SKA.
"The members noted the report from the SKA Site Advisory Committee that both sites were well-suited (and) provided justiflcation for the advantages and disadvantages of both, but that they identified Southern Africa as the preferred site." The countries' precursor arrays, the ASKAP in Australia and MeerKAT in the Karoo, are to be incorporated into phase one of the SKA, which will have the effect of delivering more science and maximising on the investments made. The organisation is now to lead a definition period, which is to take about six months, to clarify implementation. Its board is also to negotiate with the hosting sites to develop mutually acceptable hosting arrangements, including how contributions are to be divided between the organisation and each site. See Leader, Page 8 1991 Concept 2006 Shortlisting of suitable sites 2008-12 Telescope system design and cost 2011 Establish SKA organisation as a legal entity 2012 Site selection 2013-15 Detailed design and pre-construction phase 2016-19 Phase One construction 2018-23 Phase Two construction 2020 Full science operations with Phase One 2024 Full science operations with Phase Two REACHING FOR STARS: Bernie Fanaroff, SKA SA project director, says the hard part now begins with working out the details of the telescope and its funding.


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