General Dynamics to deliver 64 radio antennas specially designed for MeerKAT telescope array in Northern Cape province of South Africa.
General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies is partnering with Stratosat Datacom (Pty) Ltd. to supply 64 radio-telescope antennas, ancillary electronic components and support for South Africa's MeerKAT radio telescope program.
The Stratosat/General Dynamics SATCOM consortium will perform a minimum of 75 percent of the work on the 632 million rand ($75 million) contract in South Africa to maximize the skill development and involvement of its local industry, including the qualification testing, tooling design and virtually all of the manufacturing.
The specially configured antenna's dish-shaped 13.5-meter main reflector provides superior optical performance and reception sensitivity and is ideally suited for radio-telescope applications. It can bypass radio interference from satellites and terrestrial transmitters giving astronomers an ultra-deep look into the earliest galaxies and a means to investigate new areas of science.
The MeerKAT telescope array will have baselines (distance between two antennas) of up to eight kilometers and will facilitate research into cosmic magnetism, galactic evolution, the large-scale structure of the cosmos, dark matter and the nature of transient radio sources among other science projects. The first antenna will be installed in late 2013. All 64 antennas will be in place by the end of 2016.
MeerKAT is the precursor telescope to the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), comprising 25 percent of Phase I scope, and will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere until the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) reaches completion in 2024. When completed, SKA will be the world's biggest telescope. The South African SKA Project is funded by the South African Department of Science and Technology through the National Research Foundation.
The contract was competitively awarded and follows the South African National Treasury rules for government procurements. General Dynamics will also leverage its high-technology workforce in Duisburg, Germany, and Richardson, Texas, whose talents facilitate scientific research globally.
"As a partner in the South African consortium, General Dynamics looks forward to leveraging our 50 years of radio astronomy experience to provide a unique capability to the global science community," said Chris Marzilli, president of General Dynamics C4 Systems.
General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies has extensive experience in large radio telescope and telecommunications projects around the world. The company provides antennas and high performance control systems to the astronomy community, including the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) astronomical observatory in the Chilean Andes and most of NASA's Deep Space Network antennas used to communicate with spacecraft operating millions of miles from Earth.