SKA project on track

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pretoria - The Department of Science and Technology has confirmed that plans for the Square Kilometrer Array (SKA) project are firmly on track.

Minister Naledi Pandor made the announcement in Parliament while responding to a Democratic Alliance (DA) MP question regarding spending on the programme.

Pandor said for a project of this scale, adjustments in projected flow had to be factored in from time to time.

"The rescheduling of 2010/11 expenditure to 2012/13 and beyond is a responsible planning response to ensure SKA benefits from evolving development and telescope redesign," Minister Pandor said.

She reiterated that funds for the programme were not being cut, as thought by the DA.

The adjustments, according to the department, are needed to ensure that the prototype of the SKA, the MeerKat, is closely aligned to the design requirements of the full SKA.

The SKA is a multi-billion rand international radio telescope that will be between 50 and 100 times more sensitive than any such instrument ever built.

South Africa and Australasia are competing to host the SKA, the construction of which is expected to cost about 1.5 billion Euros.

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

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.

The SKA is the largest radio astronomy project ever undertaken by South Africa.

Minister Pandor further urged the DA to work with her and other partners in ensuring that the country wins the bid.

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