Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor on Friday declared that she was "ecstatic" that South Africa would host three-quarters of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, adding that Africa succeeded in proving to the world that the continent was ready to undertake such a significant project.
This followed the announcement from the SKA Organisation on Friday, that South Africa and Australia were to jointly host the world’s largest radio telescope project.
Pandor said that while she would have preferred to host the entire project, she was "happy" that South Africa secured the majority of the SKA.
The Minister added that the project could now move forward with detailed planning, which would lead to a more accurate estimate of the cost of building, operating and maintaining the SKA.
The project was expected to cost more with the dual-host approach, but specific cost structures were not yet available. The SKA project was initially expected to cost €1.5-billion to build and between €100-million and €200-million yearly to operate and maintain.
Pandor reiterated Africa's commitment to the SKA, commenting that the general consensus within the SKA committee was that Africa was the preferred host, but the dual site approach was made to ensure inclusivity.
The SKA Organisation committee, which comprised China, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK, delayed the site selection decision in April to investigate how the significant investments made by Australia and South Africa could be fully maximised.
The aim of the project is to construct an SKA, which would consist of 3 000 radio telescope dishes, each 12 m to 15 m in diameter, as well as other hybrid technologies.
South Africa planned to locate the core of the SKA telescope at a remote site 80 km from Carnavon, in the Northern Cape, and would still include the establishment of antenna stations in South Africa's partner countries, comprising Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. The split site did not affect the number of dishes to be established in the partner countries.
Construction was expected to start in 2013 and achieve operational capability in 2016 and fully operational by 2024.