09 July 2024

Project team at one of the satellites.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series.

Leading consulting engineering and infrastructure advisory practice Zutari is continuing its involvement with the world-leading MeerKAT radio telescope array, where it has played a leading role since the project first broke ground, according to major projects director Jana Jooste. “Zutari has been involved with this initiative for about 15 years. It is one of our flagship projects and very close to our heart. We are very proud and privileged to be a part of such an exciting global venture.”

Jooste adds: “What makes our ongoing involvement unique is that, whereas we previously only designed the infrastructure for MeerKAT, our current appointment is as a professional services consultant for the client. It means we are embedded in the client’s team, a testament to the incredible collaboration we have had as part of a global professional team on this flagship international project.”

With the main client, the Square Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO), based in the UK, Zutari’s current role is to guide the infrastructure construction contractors through the designs and subsequent construction work. “The local design and construction activities need to be closely aligned with other work packages being developed, specifically the telescopes being developed in China. Where this becomes interesting and challenging is coordinating all of these global efforts and to find ways, tools, and mechanisms to make sure that ultimately there is a single integrated telescope array,” explains Jooste.

“We regularly sit in on meetings with the other design teams, based all over the world,” she adds. Zutari is also developing power solutions for the site. “Hence, there is an international flavour to what ultimately will be a South African solution on the ground here in the Northern Cape.”

Zutari’s longstanding involvement with the project extends to assisting the National Research Foundation (NRF) with the necessary technical support to ensure South Africa could demonstrate that it had the capability to host the telescope. The telescope is operated by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), a NRF facility.

The 64-dish MeerKAT is the largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere and one of two SKA precursor instruments based in South Africa. Located in the Karoo semi-desert, it was expanded with an additional 24 dishes under the MeerKAT+ project. This was jointly funded in 2019 by SARAO and the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (MPG) of Germany and since 2020 with the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF). The telescope will later be gradually integrated into the Square Kilometre Array Mid-frequency telescope (SKA-Mid).

The SKA Observatory (SKAO) is an intergovernmental organisation bringing together expertise worldwide to build and operate cutting-edge radio telescopes to transform our understanding of the universe and deliver benefits to society through global collaboration and innovation.

Continued in Part 2

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