More power and connectivity milestones for Karoo astronomy reserve

Article republished with kind permission from SKA Africa.

By Tracy Cheetham, SKA SA infrastructure manager

Grid power to the MeerKAT site

The new 33 kV power line constructed between the Karoo sub-station and the MeerKAT site was switched on for the first time at the end of September 2010, to allow for testing and commissioning of the line from the substation to the Klerefontein support base, the MeerKAT site complex at Losberg and the KAT-7 radio telescope.

Supply of grid power to the MeerKAT site complex and KAT-7 radio telescope Tracy Cheetham switching on the newly constructed 33 kV power line

The KAT-7 telescope is now powered by the new grid power line, which is currently being operated at 22 kV. This will be switched over to 33 kV once the upgrade to the Karoo sub-station has been completed in March 2012. Back-up power is also provided to the radio telescope and buildings on site and at Klerefontein.

Once the voltage regulators have been installed, final Eskom acceptance testing will take place to verify that the design conforms to all Eskom standards and SKA SA radio frequency interference requirements, which were defined by the project in the grid design report.

Data connectivity boosted with interim link

SKA SA Carnarvon point of presence (POP) station

The interim 10 Mbps data link between the MeerKAT project office in Cape Town and the KAT-7/MeerKAT site outside Carnarvon in the Northern Cape went live for the first time on Wednesday, 19 January 2011. The 10 Mbps link was commissioned by the South African National Research Network (SANReN) on behalf of the SKA SA project and will be managed by the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (Tenet).

This interim link is an important milestone for the SKA SA project, as some of the commissioning and operation activities of the KAT-7 radio telescope – an engineering prototype for MeerKAT – can now take place from the project’s engineering headquarters in Cape Town. This will reduce travelling time considerably for the engineering and commissioning team from Cape Town to the Karoo in future. During its operations/science lifetime, the MeerKAT telescope will be operated from the Cape Town facility.

The data link is comprised of a 48-fibre cable from the MeerKAT site complex to the SKA SA point of presence (POP) station in Carnarvon, which then interfaces with 5×1984 Mbps bonded links to Cape Town.

SANReN recently awarded the provision of the long-term MeerKAT and Southern Africa Large Telescope (SALT) 10 Gbps data link to InfraCO/Neotel. The first stakeholders’ meeting was held on Friday, 21 January 2011 to discuss the implementation of the long-term link, which is expected to be completed by the end of June 2011 for both the MeerKAT site and SALT in Sutherland. The shared 10 Gbps link will cater for the full MeerKAT bandwidth requirements in future.

Commenting on these milestones, the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, said: “This demonstrates South Africa’s commitment to ensuring that the SKA becomes a major catalyst for scientific development in Africa”.