SA SKA bid signs MOU with Intel

2011-07-27 14:06
An impression of what the final design will look like. (Picture provided)

An impression of what the final design will look like. (Picture provided)

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Cape Town - South Africa's bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) has received a boost with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the bid team and Intel.

The MOU was signed on Tuesday and gives the South African bid access to the latest hardware from the global computer chip producer.

"Intel is providing us with their latest technology and we are working with them test how we can use their technology to deal with the very rapid data flow from the MeerKAT telescope," SA SKA project director Dr Bernie Fanaroff told News24.

The MeerKAT (Karoo Array Telescope) was built as an engineering test bed for the SKA and will consist of 64 connected radio telescopes that will deliver accurate astronomical data.

Fanaroff said that the MOU enables engineers to test systems that will have to cope with large amounts of data when the system becomes fully functional.

Development hardware

"It's good for us because it helps understand how we'll deal with this rapid data and it's good for them because it tests their technology and extends their knowledge of how it should be used."

The hardware that Intel is making available to the SKA bid is development hardware which will test the limits of what the technology can do.

The SKA will allow astronomers to see billions of years back in time with the telescopes using the science of radio interferometry, where several telescopes observe a single body and the data is combined to give a more accurate picture.

SA has already produced cutting edge hardware in the Roach (Reconfigurable Open Architecture Computing Hardware) board which is essential to the MeerKAT project.

"At this point, it's research and development work, so it's not production hardware that we're using," Fanaroff said.

Both SA and Australia are bidding to host the SKA which will have thousands of linked telescopes in the Northern Cape province and the MOU has added to the credibility of South Africa's bid, said Fanaroff.

"The fact that Intel is working with us on a joint R&D [research and development] project show that they've a lot of faith in out MeerKAT team and the capabilities of that team.

"They've [Intel] have said explicitly that they support the African bid for the Square Kilometre Array and obviously, it's very important for us to say that very important multi-national companies believe that the Square Kilometre Array should be built in Africa," Fanaroff said.


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