Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA) briefed the Committee on progress on the SKA and MeerKAT [Karoo Array Telescope].
The MeerKAT and SKA SA had been designated by the Presidency as Strategic Integrated Project (SIP 16). The MeerKAT was on target and the 64 dish contracts had been issued. The first dish was due on sight in December 2013 and all the relevant infrastructure contracts were expected to be completed by early 2014. The full array of 64 antennas would be completed by December 2016 and indication was that they would perform better than expected. Scientific observation would commence from 2015 and it was expected that the full array would be ready by April 2017.
The SKA pre-construction process involved developing and prototyping SKA designs. SKA SA participated in almost all the design work packages, especially in systems engineering aspect, and led two strategic packages: Acceptance, Integration and Verification; and Infrastructure Africa.
The date for integration of SKA1 (South Africa and Australia) was not expected to be before 2020 and SKA 2 would involve completion of the 3000 dishes. In the meantime, the MeerKAT would be the biggest telescope in the world and would strengthen South Africa’s position as a world leader in the science that was crucial for the operation of SKA.
The board of the SKA International Organisation had capped the cost of SKA1 at €650 over the period of 2017 to 2023, with the requirement that designs had to be completed within the cost cap and without compromising science. The trade-off was that spending more on the design work packages would reduce maintenance costs later. Costs were covered by all members of the SKA organisation and more countries were being actively recruited. The cost of SKA 2 would be clear once the design was completed in 2018 but was expected to be cheaper due to lessons learned from SKA 1 and the technology becoming cheaper.
A sum of money available to SKA SA was used to subsidise a number of South African companies to develop new skills and expertise and position these companies for construction contracts when the tender went out in 2017.
Since 2005, 492 grants had been given for human capital development and in 2013, 53 new grants had been allocated. As of 1 April 2013, SKA SA had graduated 33 PhD and 92 Masters students. SKA SA was giving bursaries to grade 8 & 9 maths and science students from Williston and Vanwyksvlei for them to live and attend school in Carnarvon. A major challenge was that while the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission wanted all the SIPS to increase their training programmes, funding had not been provided for SKA SA to do this. Three percent of the SKA SA project budget was allocated toward science outreach to make science more high profile to learners, but additional use of funds from the budget meant that money was being taken away from the SKA SA telescope.
Dr Phil Mjwara and Dr Bernie Fanaroff from SKA SA were directors on the board of the SKA International Organisation. Current negotiations of the board involved the hosting agreement between SKA Organisation and South Africa; the project agreement between all the member governments –there were 11 countries in the SKA organisation, including India; the brand; the funding model – how much each member country should contribute and the conditions attached to those funds, how much was in cash, how much was in kind and the valuation of in-kind contributions, such as the contribution value of MeerKAT from SA; procurement policy; and the governance model for the SKA construction phase. Roles and responsibilities of the SKA Office and members were also being proposed and were expected to be finalised by mid-2014. Delicate negotiations on ownership of the telescope and the site continued.
SKA SA was engaging with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on protection of the SKA site in terms of the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act (No. 21 of 2007). Public consultation for protection of the central SKA area was on-going to ensure that everyone had the opportunity for input.
Members asked if DST had performed an environmental impact assessment on the SKA and what mechanisms were in place or would be developed for the co-existence of astronomy projects and shale gas fracking [hydraulic fracturing]; how SKA SA would manage the construction site for a 20-30 year period without threatening the radio-purity of the area and the functioning of the dishes already built; and what outcome was expected from the consultation processes on protection of the central area.
Members also asked if systems were secure enough to ensure that there would be no corrupt tenders; how much of the €650 million South Africa was contributing to SKA1; exactly what role the USA currently played and why they would only join SKA after 2020; for an explanation on the spacing of the dishes; if there would be a design-fit challenge down the road if the MeerKAT design did not fit the SKA design; if there was any chance that the 3000 dishes of SKA may not be completed due to lack of funding; and if the intellectual property of MeerKAT would remain the property of South Africa even if it became owned by the SKA organisation.
The Chairperson was of the opinion that DST and the National Research Foundation (NRF) should negotiate with relevant departments to ensure that the maths and science programme found its way into the mainstream infrastructure of education. They asked if the maths and science programme in Carnarvon and neighbouring towns would be extended to schools in all provinces; when the schools programme would be fully operational; if the local people would benefit through education from the SKA project; if a skills audit had been carried out; if research would be performed to determine the impact of the human capital development programme on career opportunities; if human capital development grants would continue to increase going forward; and if the SKA SA recruitment strategy was encouraging students to pursue a career in astronomy.
The Chairperson suggested that since the Department of Higher Education and Training was encouraging further education and training (FET) college training, a FET college could be constructed as part of the SIPS. Members asked if FETs were capacitated adequately; if there was only one SKA SA FET college in Kimberley; if all FET colleges were aware of the SKA project; if SKA SA planned to increase the number of research chairs; and if the new University of Northern Cape infrastructure would have focus on astronomy and related sciences.
Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and MeerKAT progress
Dr Bernie Fanaroff, Project Director: SKA South Africa, briefed the Committee on the progress made over the past 12 months and expectations for the next 12 months.
The MeerKAT [Karoo Array Telescope] and SKA SA had been designated by the Presidency as Strategic Integrated Project (SIP 16), which meant that SKA had to report on a regular basis to the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC). This had proven to be useful to SKA SA as it facilitated processes with the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). In addition, the PICC had deemed the Human Capital Development (HCD) plan of SKA SA to be a benchmark for departments to follow.
Karoo Array Telescope 7 (KAT 7) was a seven-dish engineering prototype designed to learn how to develop systems for the MeerKAT, i.e., systems were developed for MeerKAT and tested on the KAT 7. Its engineering testing was complete and it was stable and ready for scientific publications. There was a demand by international scientists to work on this cutting edge project.
The MeerKAT was on target and the 64 dish contracts had been issued. SKA SA was in discussion with companies to iron out some design issues before building of dishes commenced. The first dish was due on sight in December 2013. Radio receiver contracts were being developed and indication was that they would perform better than expected. The MeerKAT would therefore operate with more sensitivity than expected. All the relevant infrastructure contracts were expected to be completed by early 2014.
SKA SA was engaging with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on protection of the site in terms of the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act. The smaller areas - the observatory sites at both Carnarvon and the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), Sutherland, had already been declared as protected sites. Public consultation for protection of the central areas, which was a larger area, was on-going to ensure that everyone had the opportunity for input. The Minister would decide on whether oral presentations would be added to the process.
DOME, an innovative collaboration with International Business Machines (IBM) (Europe and South Africa) and ASTRON [Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy), was a cutting edge exascale high performance computing project which involved building computers which operated about 1000 times faster than what was currently available on the market. An exciting low-power/high-performance computing idea from SKA SA for DOME was packaging of a number of computer boards in a sealed container which was robust enough to survive being dropped from an aeroplane ie to sustain the desert conditions.
Another exciting project with Intel’s latest technologies was a very low-cost laptop and pc to be made available for schools and to the public. Intel had committed to donating several thousand computers to South African learners if SKA SA could hit the design target price of a few dollars.
Cisco Systems was donating extensive research instrumentation for cutting edge research at one of the Universities in the Eastern Cape. This project was being finalised.
Vacant posts had been filled as required as SKA SA was not only working on the MeerKAT but was participating in the design of the SKA.
Since 2005, 492 grants had been given for Human Capital Development (HCD) and in 2013, 53 new grants had been allocated. As of 1 April 2013, SKA SA had graduated 33 PhD and 92 Masters students.
Since there were no maths and science teachers in many parts of the Karoo, a new bursary scheme had been introduced to create a hub for maths and science in Carnarvon. SKA SA was giving bursaries for grade 8 & 9 maths and science students from Williston and Vanwyksvlei to live and attend schools in Carnarvon. It also hosted a number of international conferences at some of the schools.
The pre-construction process involved developing and prototyping SKA designs. SKA SA participated in almost all the design work packages, especially in system engineering, and led two strategic packages: Acceptance, Integration and Verification; and Infrastructure Africa. A sum of money available to SKA SA was used to subsidise a number of South African companies to be involved in the work packages - to develop new skills and expertise and position these companies for construction contracts when the tender went out for construction in 2017.
The board of the international SKA organisation had been formed, with Dr Phil Mjwara and Dr Bernie Fanaroff as directors from SKA SA. Their work involved a range of complicated negotiations and arrangements with other departments to acquire diplomatic status for the organisation and deal with issues such as customs and excise tax, work permits, etc.
SKA SA collaborated with and was working to develop a SKA consortium with eight other African parties: Ghana and Kenya in particular, and Mozambique, Botswana, Mauritius, Zambia, Namibia, and Madagascar. While construction in those partner countries was not possible in the short term, South Africa was working together with Ghana and Kenya on an African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN) to ultimately combine telescopes on different continents to produce fine detail astronomy. Second hand satellite communication dishes which were no longer in use by telecommunications companies were being converted for use in astronomy. In Ghana, Vodafone had donated a big dish to the Ghanaian government; France’s telecom, Orange, had donated a big dish to the Kenyan government, Mozambique would receive a dish from South Africa (from Telkom); and a telecoms company in Botswana would transfer a dish to the Botswana government. As a result of receiving dishes, Ghana and Kenya had both established space institutes and were in the process of getting budgets to fund the institutes and for staff. SKA SA had built up an AVN team of interns at Pinelands and Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) who were excited about developing miniature telescope electronic systems for application on the Ghanaian telescope. Six technicians from Ghana would be trained for six months, from October 2013, on the small dishes which they could then apply to the big dish in Ghana. The Royal Society in the UK, in collaboration with SKA SA, had offered a grant to a Ghanaian student at the University of Leeds and had also sponsored a Masters course in Ghana on astronomy relevant to SKA.
Another exciting telescope was the PAPER (Precision Array to Probe the Epoch of Re-ionisation) telescope funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to look for the signal of the first stars of the early universe. By September 2013, 128 antennas and new computers would be up and running at the PAPER site in the Karoo. Up until now SKA SA had been involved in engineering and project management but wanted to be involved in science as well. The Universities of the Western Cape and University of KwaZulu-Natal were now becoming actively involved in the science. There was a good chance that the PAPER team would receive a further grant from the NSF to extend and expand PAPER activities substantially.
The C-BASS telescope (C-Band All Sky Survey), donated from Telkom, had been erected at the Losberg site. The radio receiver had been commissioned and would start observations later in the year.
Over the next twelve months
The major challenge was that while the PICC wanted all the SIPS to increase their training programmes threefold and to increase the scope of HCD, funding was not provided for SKA SA to do this. Three percent of the SKA SA project budget was allocated toward SKA SA science outreach to make science more high profile to learners, but additional use of funds from the budget meant that money was being taken away from the SKA SA telescope. Detail on the grants for the HCD programme can be found on slides 44-49.
SKA SA had implemented staff development and AVN intern programmes to develop interns and set them on a career path. Bursaries stipulated that graduates had to work for SKA SA after graduating and currently there were only nine interns. SKA SA had asked for an investigation into why the 15 students at the Kimberley FET college did not graduate this year. In the previous year, all eight students had graduated and were currently training at the SKA site. The HCD would focus on artisan and FET technical training and hoped that with collaboration with the African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP), training could be expanded to other African countries.
Microsoft and the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) had donated science cyber lab equipment and teacher training in maths, science and ICT subjects to schools in Carnarvon and Williston. Other projects included: the E-technology programme to be launched in November 2013, in partnership with Intel, which offered 350 laptops, mobile science equipment carts and teacher training at five schools in Carnarvon, Williston and Vanwyksvlei; a Community Knowledge Centre in Carnarvon was being established by SKA SA in collaboration with Siyafunda, Cisco Systems, and Intel; a long term project, Working for Water; upgrading of the health centre in collaboration with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform; and entrepreneurship training through the Department of Trade and Industry.
The Ghana dish would be AVN converted and the Kenyan dish would begin AVN conversion after handover of the Orange dish to the Kenyan government. Delays had been due to institutional issues - setting up of their space institutes and securing funding. Construction of the Mozambique telescope would begin and training of technicians in eastern Ghana and possibly at other African countries would commence. Lack of funding currently limited SKA SA’s ability to AVN-convert dishes in African countries mentioned earlier.
The timeline for the MeerKAT was outlined in slide 33. The first antenna would be on site in December 2013 and would be qualified by February 2014. The second antenna would be on site by the 28 March 2014 and the full array of 64 antennas completed by December 2016. Science would commence from 2015 and it was expected that the full array for science would be ready by April 2017.
The Chairperson asked who the MeerKAT antennae/dish contractors were.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the contractor was a South African company, Stratosat. They were working with an American company, GD Satcom and a German company, Vertex Antennantechnik. The contract required that 75% of the value of the construction had to be based in South Africa. Almost all the manufacturing was local, while some detailed design was done in Germany. SKA SA owned all the IP and licence of the dish design and was transferring much of the skills to local industry.
The SKA Phase 1 & 2 (SKA 1 & 2) sites were outlined in slide 19. The date for integration of SKA1 (South Africa and Australia) was not expected to be before 2020 – 2021 and SKA 2 would involve completion of the 3000 dishes in South Africa. In the meantime, the MeerKAT would be the biggest telescope in the world and would strengthen South Africa’s position as a world leader in the science crucial for the operation of SKA. The official SKA design and construction phases and dates are outlined in slide 23.
The cost of SKA1 was underestimated, as predicted by SKA SA, and the board had now capped the cost at €650 over the period of 2017 to 2023, with the requirement being that designs had to be completed within the cost cap and without compromising science. The trade-off was that spending more on the design work packages would reduce maintenance costs later. Costs were covered by all members of the SKA organisation and more countries were being actively recruited. The USA would most certainly come on board after 2020 and it was hoped that the European Union (EU) would also contribute. The cost of SKA 2 would be clear once the design was completed in 2018 but was expected to be cheaper due to lessons learned from SKA 1 and the technology becoming cheaper.
Currently there was agreement by the SKA board over SKA changing its registered status from a non-profit company in the UK to an international organisation. Discussions continued as to whether SKA should be a treaty organisation or alternative organisation. There was agreement that the SKA Africa brand would include an international logo to reflect it being a global organisation.
Current negotiations of the board also involved the hosting agreement between SKA Organisation and South Africa and responsibilities of each; the project agreement between all the member governments –there were 11 countries in the SKA organisation, including India; a funding model – how much each member country should contribute and the conditions attached to those funds, how much was in cash, and how much was in kind; the valuation of in-kind contributions, such as the contribution value of MeerKAT from SA; procurement policy; and the governance model for the SKA construction phase. Roles and responsibilities of the SKA Office and members were also being proposed and were expected to be finalised by mid-2014. Delicate negotiations on ownership of the telescope and the site continued.
The central Karoo Radio Astronomy Reserve protected areas were expected to be fully implemented in terms of the Act.
SKA SA would be issuing a tender for an alternative communication system - should there be need for removal of mobile phones. Before the tender could be issued, SKA SA had to consult all communities on their requirements, including the farming communities.
SKA SA was extending its work on the Reconfigurable Open Architecture Computing Hardware (ROACH) boards, which had become a standard for SKA around the world. The University of Stellenbosch and others were looking at how this high-performance computing could be applied in the aerospace and motor industries.
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) said that she was excited that SKA SA had a HCD plan to empower communities. She asked if FETs were capacitated adequately; if the FET was only in Kimberley; and if all FET colleges were aware of the SKA project.
Dr Fanaroff replied that SKA SA intention was to continue to provide laptops and training to maths and science teachers. The problem was that DST and National Treasury funded SKA SA to build the telescope. The funding for additional activity took funds away from the building of the telescope. Without additional funding, a range of potential HCD activities was not possible. Other challenges were availability of staff to do more and limited collaboration with other government departments, such as the Department of Basic Education.
The initial intention was to give preferential bursaries at universities to learners in the Karoo area. Due to the weakness in maths and science in the area, the universities could not accept students and this was the reason for FET bursaries. Kimberley was the logical FET area, and the first eight students passed those lectures, although it was rumoured that the reason for the next fifteen students not all passing was due to the lectures not being up to scratch. An investigation was being done into the quality of the lectures and what additional support was required to ensure that the funds put into sending students to Kimberley was being optimally used. SKA SA hoped to progress with discussions with the DST and possibly with the the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) on the option of using the University of the Northern Cape as a centre for technical training for local and other African students.
The chances were that not all FET colleges were aware of SKA, which was probably why Minister Hanekom had given SKA SA instruction to increase outreach. SKA SA was working with the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) from the NRF to reach more FET colleges, but with current capacity, SKA SA had chosen to focus on Kimberley.
Ms Dunjwa asked if systems were secure enough to ensure that there would not be problems down the line with corrupt tenders, as had happened with the Arms Deal.
Dr Fanaroff replied that SKA SA tender systems reported to the NRF board, which ensured that there was no corruption. SKA SA was subject to internal audits by the NRF and external audits by the Auditor-General of South Africa. By and large, the SKA SA tender system was working and there was no corruption to date. No contracts were given which were not justified transparently. International tenders, which would be coming up in 2017, would operate under international rules and would not be run directly by SKA SA. In many areas, South African companies would have a better chance because they were local, but the procurement policy was still being negotiated.
Ms Dunjwa asked if a skills audit had been carried out and if the SKA SA recruitment strategy was encouraging students, particularly those living in the Northern Cape, to pursue a career in astronomy. She also asked if the local people would benefit through education from the SKA project.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the skills audit on the Carnarvon and surrounding areas had been made available to all contractors to draw people from the local area. In some areas, people did not have the requisite skills. One issue was that skilled people were living in Cape Town and waiting for jobs to open up at the Northern Cape site. SKA SA always required that contractors used local people. There were 30 companies on SKA SA’s register: 22 were suppliers and eight were engineering companies – all engineering companies were involved in the infrastructure contract. Some of them had not made a profit and it was suspected that this was due to them not having costing skills, but an investigation would determine exactly why this was so. SKA SA did not have capacity to expand on its skills audit. This would have to be done by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) or DHET.
Contractors were also required to train people on the job but it would be ideal to have a FET college in the area. The head of technicians in Carnarvon, Sky Serenyane, was developing a proposal for a technical training facility in Carnarvon. Ultimately, while SKA SA could provide guidance, its success depended on other government departments, particularly the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), contributing in terms of resources.
Dr J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) asked if SKA SA planned to increase the number of research chairs.
Dr Fanaroff replied that SKA SA was funded to provide five research chairs. By moving funds around, a sixth chair was funded. These were expensive research chairs, lasting ten years, and therefore the number of chairs depended on funding.
Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, Deputy Director-General: Human Capital and Knowledge Systems, DST, and official leading the SKA SA responsibility of the DST, added that all funds for research chairs had been fully invested. DST did not anticipate receiving a tranche for new research chairs in the near future.
Ds Kloppers-Lourens asked exactly what role the USA currently played and why they would only join SKA after 2020.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the USA had a formal bottom-up process for deciding on priorities in science. The National Science Foundation (NSF), a funding entity, delegated a study on national priorities in the astronomy community to the National Academy of Sciences. In 2010, the academy received five separate proposals for the SKA and decided not to fund it over the current ten year period because they deemed it ‘not a mature project’. Indication is that in 2020 it would be funded, as by that time it would clearly be a mature project. The importance of the project was felt in the USA and there was a lot of support from the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), associated universities, and so on. They made special applications to sit as observers on the SKA board. SKA SA had visited and engaged in useful discussion with the USA State Department and NSF over the past two years, together with former Minister of Science and Technology, the Hon. Naledi Pandor and the present Minister, the Hon. Derek Hanekom respectively. It appeared that industry there was not happy that the tenders would be most certainly confined to member states, but SKA SA would not interfere on a political level.
The PAPER instrument was not part of SKA at all and was funded by the NSF. Application had been made to the NSF for further funding so that the instrument may continue to expand.
Dr Kloppers-Lourens said that the school programme was reportedly not yet up and running. She asked when it would be fully operational and if research would be carried out to determine the impact of the programme on career opportunities.
Dr Fanaroff replied that SKA SA had not done a study on the impact of school interventions, but did talk to the students, staff and principals at the schools. It was hard to maintain maths and science staff in the Karoo and it was important for the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to be more actively involved. A baseline survey had been done by the University of Free State on the socio-economic conditions in the area in 2007 and 2009. SKA SA would like to conduct a follow up survey together with DST so that questions could be answered on SKA’s impact on education, business development and socio-economic development in the area.
Dr Kloppers-Lourens asked if DST had performed an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the SKA and whether SKA had an environment management plan.
Dr Fanaroff replied that an EIA had been made for the current construction according to legislation. SKA SA was in discussion with DEA through the PICC about performing an EIA for the full SKA project. However, the final configuration for positioning of arrays had not yet been concluded and therefore the final strategic environmental assessment could not be completed. An Environmental Management Plan was in place for the whole area.
Dr Kloppers-Lourens asked what mechanisms were in place or would be developed for the co-existence of astronomy projects and shale gas fracking [hydraulic fracturing]. She also asked if DST was interacting with Agri-forum, Southern Cape Land, etc, regarding potential interference of SKA activity during the process of shale gas extraction.
Dr Fanaroff replied that SKA SA had discussions with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and fracking companies and there was indication that there would be no fracking within the 30 km buffer zone around SKA. This had been agreed to and would be enforced by DMR. While DST could not prevent fracking, it would ensure that fracking did not interfere with the telescope. SKA SA did not believe that fracking was a risk. There was more risk from trucks and short wave radios. Political discussions were left to DST.
Mr P Smith (IFP) asked how SKA SA would manage the construction site for a 20-30 year period and to what extent the construction of dishes threatened the radio-purity of the area and the functioning of the dishes already built.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the first foundation was poured the previous week and that the foundations were specially designed for the telescopes to be able to point within five seconds of arc - very accurate, even in wind conditions. All 64 foundations would be in place by April 2014. The first dish would be placed on the foundation in Dec 2013, the second dish in February 2014, etc. There were already many kilometres of optical fibre and electrical power cabling positioned in the trenches. The construction phases of the MeerKAT were arranged so that science could proceed once 32 dishes were up, with minimal interference from construction activity during telescope observations. SKA SA was in discussions with SKA international about whether to build SKA from the inside out or outside in - to minimise interference with science during construction. There were strict rules for contractors and no contractors were allowed on site unless they complied with radio-frequency interference. There was a radio interference committee and a designated manager who monitored and controlled interference. All equipment was tested at Denel for interference. This included contractors’ equipment and vehicles.
Mr Smith asked what outcome was expected from the consultation process on protection of the central area. He assumed that the statutory requirements were in place.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the Act set out a strict consultation process. All interested parties had to be informed and there was then 60 days for submissions and then the Minister had 60 days to consider and decide on those representations. The Act complied with the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA). SKA SA may make a request to the Minister for further oral representations to ensure that everyone had adequate opportunity to express themselves. The Carnarvon Williston Vanwyksvlei Forum and Agri Noord-Kaap was consulted regularly by SKA SA to ensure that everyone was properly consulted. However, there would never be a situation where everybody was happy.
Mr Smith asked how Microsoft was involved in the software side of SKA SA. It was clear how Intel and CISCO were involved - on the hardware side, and IBM and ASTRO on software.
Dr Fanaroff replied that Microsoft had been in contact with SKA SA but their areas of interest were slightly different to those of SKA. The research companies were working more directly with high-tech computing. Microsoft had contributed by donating educational software and cyberlab equipment.
Mr Smith asked for clarity on the current relationship between South Africa and Australia now that the SKA bid had been concluded.
Dr Fanaroff replied that there were possibly one or two individuals who still harboured a grudge, but by and large, relationships were good.
Mr Smith asked for an explanation as to the spacing and precise location of each dish. They appeared to be randomly set apart.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the dishes were distributed randomly to eliminate artefacts in the picture, such as “breaking rings”. However, beyond the centre, from 20km outwards, the dishes were arranged in spiral arms and decreased in number as the distance from the centre increased. There was not yet final configuration on the location of all dishes. Similarly, to optimise the picture and enhance the science of the AVN telescopes in Hartebeesthoek and Europe, additional telescopes had to be positioned in Ghana and Kenya.
Mr Smith asked if there was any chance that the full 3 000 dishes of SKA may not be completed due to lack of funding and if there was a threat that if that became the case, the MeerKAT, being the largest telescope in the world, and having taken on consignments, would suffice.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the MeerKAT could not do the revolutionary science that 3000 SKA dishes could do. There was recognition amongst member governments and other governments that the SKA must be built. The question was not whether it would be built but when funding would enable it to be built.
Mr Smith asked if there would be a design-fit challenge down the road since the MeerKAT design, with the first dish being completed in December 2013, might not fit the SKA design, which will only be finalised in 2016.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the critical design review for SKA dishes would be complete in 2016. A strict engineering process would analyse the pros and cons of designs which were expected to come from Canada and China, and from South Africa (MeerKAT design). Prototypes will be built on the SKA SA site.
Mr Smith asked if the intellectual property (IP) of MeerKAT would remain the IP of South Africa even if it became owned by the SKA organisation.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the MeerKAT dishes would always belong to SKA SA and be part of SKA1. If SKA SA agreed and was compensated, the ownership would move to SKA but the IP would remain with SKA SA. The same applied for design processes. The IP agreement was that the IP would remain the property of the organisation which developed it, but it would be free of charge to the SKA organisation to be used to build the SKA. However, the SKA organisation could not commercialise it.
Mr Smith said that he noted a gradual increase in the number of grants for HCD since 2005 and then a drop in 2013. He asked why this was so and if grants would continue to increase going forward.
Dr Fanaroff replied that one reason appeared to be that the supervisors were saturated and could not take on more PhD and Masters students. The other reason was that SKA SA had not continued to actively market the grants as it had in the past.
Ms S Plaatjie (COPE) asked if the programme for maths and science in Carnarvon and neighbouring towns would be extended to schools in all provinces, as maths and science was a problem in all provinces.
Dr Fanaroff replied that with support of the DBE, increased capacity and continued support of Intel, programmes and bursaries could be rolled out to other schools.
The Chairperson said that he was of the opinion that such an initiative may need the support of the Committee. DST and the NRF should negotiate with relevant departments to ensure that the maths and science programme could find its way into the mainstream infrastructure of education.
Dr Fanaroff thanked the chairperson for his input and reiterated that SKA SA and DST would roll the programme out as far as capacity and funding allowed.
Ms P Mocumi (ANC) asked for a clear explanation of the challenges with regard to training and outreach.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the challenges all came down to money and people. If the PICC wanted SKA SA to increase its training programme, SKA SA was happy to do that. There were four people running the HCD programme and they could not cope with more than what they were already doing. Having more people was currently more crucial than more money as people were overextended, but both would enable the outreach programme, the HCD and schools programme to be expanded. Money allocated by National Treasury was for the telescope.
Ms Mocumi asked what the envisaged number of artisans, technicians and engineers in HCD plan was and when this outcome was expected to be fulfilled. She was concerned that South Africa might be short of skills at the time when they were needed most.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the calculations for the immediate period were available and could be submitted to the Committee. However, these were projections and until the final design was confirmed, SKA SA would not know how many artisans and technicians would be required. There would be a period of time between 2014 and 2017 when there would not be much infrastructure construction and the engineer work on the telescopes was skilled labour and there would be a limited number of telescope maintenance jobs available. It was SKA SA’s intention to take as many young people as possible through to FET colleges.
Ms H Line-Hendriks (ANC) asked how the NRF would bring the communities on board to eliminate confusion about SKA. There was currently inadequate consultation between the NRF and the communities.
Dr Fanaroff replied that the community forum included representatives from all organisations. SKA SA held regular meetings with the executive committee of the forum to keep them informed and published, for the Northern Cape, a newsletter in Afrikaans, which was distributed widely by the municipality to keep the communities informed. SKA SA would like the municipality to be more involved in formal consultation processes with the communities as there were still people who were not being reached and there was much more that could be done in terms of skills audits and entrepreneurship training. Dr Fanaroff asked Ms Line-Hendriks to assist in this regard.
Mr Smith and Ms Line-Hendriks asked how much the MeerKAT design and construction cost South Africa and how much of the €650 million South Africa was contributing to the SKA1.
Dr Fanaroff replied that he could not answer the question at this point in time. All member countries had stipulated that they wanted South Africa and Australia to contribute more than other countries, as they were hosting nations, but both South Africa and Australia had stressed that there was a ceiling above which they were not prepared to go. Negotiations were difficult and would be on-going. The SKA board was aiming to have funding agreements signed off for SKA1 by the following year and operational funding would probably be signed off at the same time.
The Chairperson asked if the detection of neutral hydrogen by the KAT 7 was the science that had been reported to the entities in report New General Catalogue 3109 (NGC 3109).
Dr Fanaroff replied that he would make the NGC 3109 report available to the Chairperson. The KAT 7 strong point was that the telescopes were all close together and could see very broad structure better than other telescopes could. KAT 7 was looking at neutral hydrogen in galaxies to see whether it could measure dark matter in those galaxies. There were some interesting programmes in this regard.
The Chairperson asked if a FET training college could be constructed as part of the infrastructure development plan in the surrounding area. Since DHET was encouraging FET college training, it would be expected that SKA SA could collaborate with DHET for that purpose. He also asked if the new UNC infrastructure would have focus on astronomy and related sciences.
Dr Fanaroff replied that if the DHET would be willing to engage on the option of a FET training college, SKA SA would be very happy to have a college in Carnarvon and would assist wherever possible.
Dr Auf der Heyde said that DST had discussions with DHET on the role of the UNC with regard to the SKA project. Agreement was reached that DST was not in a position to establish further sites for high-level astronomy activities, training and research, as it was already funding many of them in Cape Town, University of the Western Cape, South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and other training sites. Resources would be depleted too much if the UNC was designated as another point. However, it was agreed between the NRF and DHET that research in Heritage Studies - not related to astronomy - was an important area of research that was not well- established from a structural point of view in SA. Because the SKA project dominated the landscape in the Northern Cape so strongly and there would be a strong need for IT based skills in the region, DHET indicated that one of the first programmes that the University of the Northern Cape (UNC) would be running would be in IT (high-skills) for the reason of the SKA project being there.
Regarding FETs, DST was currently in discussion with DHET regarding the scope of artisans and technicians required for the full-phase construction of SKA in 2018 and where the local skills would be pulled from, so that in the event of overseas contracts getting local construction tenders, they did not end up bringing thousands of artisans and technicians from other member countries. This was where the HCD of the SIP was important. Clearly, a major source of these skills would be FET colleges. Those colleges which already were established and had training programmes on those skills would be maximised. The feasibility of creating FETs to specifically service the SKA project could be discussed with DHET, on the basis of the HCD.
Dr Auf der Heyde further reminded Members that DST had made a presentation to the Committee on HCD programme midway through the previous year. In that presentation he had started off by highlighting the mandates and budgets of the DBE, DHET, and DST to show Members that DST was clearly not responsible for the education system, although it shared projects of national importance, such as the SKA project. DST supported 31 science centres, which all involved educational outreach and support activities. An important centre currently being developed was in Cofimvaba, in the Eastern Cape. DST actively engaged with DBE on roll out and use of science centres to improve learning experiences at schools. This would also be explored in Carnarvon.
Mr Mmboneni Muofhe, Deputy Director-General: International Co-operation & Resources, DST, added that DST had launched a programme together with Microsoft to pilot a project to connect rural communities to broadband using the white spaces of the spectrum. DST had worked with Microsoft for many years and unfortunately, delays in implementation were due to regulatory issues of the Department of Communications.
Dr Fanaroff ended his presentation by presenting photos of interns, FET students and postgraduate students who had performed well and who were working at the Losberg SKA site.
The meeting was adjourned.
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