General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies has been awarded the 'Overall Best Steel Project' award for 2015 from South Africa's Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) for the design and construction of the MeerKAT radio telescope.
The award, presented earlier this month, recognized the Company's excellence in the use of structural steel and 'every aspect of its structure and purpose.'
The SATCOM Technologies' MeerKAT antenna also received the top award of the Association of Steel Tube and Pipe Manufacturers (ASTPM) Tubular category.
The MeerKAT telescope array, a precursor telescope to South Africa's planned Square Kilometer Array (SKA), comprises 64 radio antennas in South Africa's Northern Cape Province. When completed in 2016, MeerKAT will be the largest most powerful radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere until the SKA array is completed in 2024. MeerKAT covers eight kilometers and will facilitate research into cosmic magnetism, galactic evolution, and the large-scale structure of the cosmos, dark matter and the nature of transient radio sources among other science projects.
In making the award, the SAISC judges noted the complexity of the antenna and pedestal's geometry and the exacting tolerances for construction and performance. The antenna positioner allows for a vertical (tilt) range of 15 degrees to 88 degrees and an azimuth range of 360 degrees to an accuracy of within 1.4 thousandths of a degree under optimal conditions and 7 thousandths of a degree during normal operational conditions. The judges noted, "That's a degree of accuracy that is hard to grasp for structural engineers given the fact that we normally work to the nearest two millimeters."
"A scientific project of this nature that taxes the skills of South African engineers and scientists to rise above the challenges and make it work represents excellence in every way, but it is especially a triumph in the use of steelwork and its truly deserving of being the Overall Winner of Steel Awards 2015" the judges said.
Work on the MeerKAT radio telescope array is conducted under a consortium of engineering and construction companies directed by Stratosat Datacom (Pty) Ltd of South Africa and General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies. The majority of the work on the project is supplied by South African local industry including qualification testing, tooling design and virtually all of the manufacturing.