General Dynamics to build 64 massive radio telescope antennas

Astronomers and scientists use a variety of different telescopes to investigate the heavens. Typically, when we say telescope many people think about optical telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope that takes photographs that we can look at to get a glimpse at the beauty and massive size of our universe. A lot of scientific discovery is made using radio telescopes and General Dynamics has announced that it has landed a contract to deliver 64 gigantic radio telescope antennas.

The 64 radio antennas will be used in the MeerKAT telescope array to be located in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. Once in place the radio telescope will be the largest and most powerful in the southern hemisphere. The General Dynamics contract is to deliver the 64 massive antennas, ancillary electronic components, and to provide support for the radio telescope array.

The contract is valued at $75 million. The antennas will have a dish-shaped 13.5-meter main reflector able to provide superior optical performance and reception sensitivity. General Dynamics says that the design of the reflector is ideally suited for radio telescope applications. The design of the main reflector allows the radio telescope to bypass any radio interference from satellites and terrestrial transmitters so astronomers can get a deep look into early galaxies and investigate new areas of science.

The MeerKAT array is a precursor telescope to the Square Kilometer Array and is 25% of the phase 1 scope. The full Square Kilometer Array telescope is expected to be completed in 2024, and MeerKAT is expected to be the largest radio telescope in the southern hemisphere until that completion. The first of the MeerKAT antennas will be installed in late 2013 with all 64 antennas in place by the end of 2016.