SA will win bid to host SKA - Pandor

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Carnarvon - South Africa will win the bid to host the world's largest Square Kilometre Array (SKA), said Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor on Tuesday.

South Africa and Australia are competing to host the multi-billion rand telescope which is about 50 - 100 times more sensitive than any other radio telescope on earth. The SKA, which is deemed to be the world's most powerful radio telescope, will be able to probe the edges of our universe

A core component of the country's bid initiative is the design and construction of an operational demonstrator telescope, the MeerKAT. To achieve this objective, the construction of the seven-dish Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7) serves as the MeerKAT precursor array.

The KAT-7 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.

The SKA will be one of the largest scientific research facilities in the world and will consolidate Africa as a major hub for astronomy in the world.

Speaking at the SKA site in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, Pandor said: "South Africa is going to be chosen to host the SKA and we will be ready to host it."

She said the SKA is one of the great scientific projects of the 21st century.

"The Southern African Development Community has declared their support for the African Square Kilometre Array bid.

"Most importantly, the excitement and challenges of astronomy and space science are already attracting some of our best students into studying science and engineering," she said.

Pandor also said she was confident that hosting SKA would assist in retaining scientists in the country as it would make Africa the world centre of physics, astronomy and high-tech engineering, dramatically increasing Africa's capacity to innovate in harmony with industries and universities.

On 10 March ministers responsible for science and technology in African partner countries re-affirmed their commitment for South Africa's bid to host SKA.

Pandor said 19 countries and 55 scientific institutions have joined the project and several other countries are more likely to join. It is currently expected that 80 percent of the cost for hosting the SKA will be carried by nine countries.

The US will provide 40 percent of the total cost, while eight European countries - France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the UK will together provide another 40 percent.

The construction of the SKA is expected to cost about 1.5 billion Euros.

The international science funding agencies and governments involved in the international SKA consortium will announce the winning bidder in 2012.

South Africa's Parliament passed the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act of 2007, which declares the Northern Cape Province as an astronomy advantage area.

The SKA headquarters will be at Jodrell Bank outside Manchester in the UK, where there is an observatory and a radio telescope that has been listening to deep space for more than fifty years.