The international engineering consortium tasked with planning the assembly, integration and verification (AIV) of the SKA radio telescope has formally completed its work, representing another crucial step towards the construction of the world’s largest radio telescope.
The work completed by the AIV consortium will be included in the overall system critical design review (CDR) for the SKA, scheduled for later this year, which will ensure that all the different design elements of the SKA align with each other.
“The AIV programme is critical to ensure that telescope elements that have been designed and built by a dispersed global community, are tested, assembled and verified in a rational and thorough way, thereby ensuring that the entire telescope system will work as designed, to budget and on schedule,” South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (Sarao) chief technologist Professor Justin Jonas commented.
In a statement this week, Jonas explained how the experience with the construction of radio telescopes had demonstrated that the roll-out activities were often underestimated, resulting in delays in deployment, owing to re-engineering and retrofitting of components, which in turn increased the total cost of the system.
Many issues that were discovered during “downstream” integration and verification were the result of “upstream” neglect. The sheer scale and complexity of the SKA made it essential that AIV planning was done at an early stage, in parallel with the work of the element-design consortia, he averred.
“SKA mid-frequency array will consist of nearly 200 dishes in South Africa and 130 000 antennas in Western Australia, so we don’t want to assemble and integrate and then discover something crucial is missing, or doesn’t work as we expected it to,” said AIV consortium lead at Sarao Richard Lord.
“We’ve learned valuable lessons from MeerKAT about how challenging AIV can be if issues are identified too late during deployment. Planning for the AIV now gives us the best possible preparation for accurate procurement and construction for the SKA.”