SKA gets a boost

Stratosat Datacom opens subreflector manufacturing facility in the Western CapeSA and Australia were awarded the bid to host the world’s most powerful radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array’s (SKA) in 2012.

In April this year, the project got a boost when Stratosat Datacom (Pty) Ltd, opened its subreflector manufacturing facility in Elandsfontein, Western Cape. This is a joint SKA (SA), Department of Science and Technology, General Dynamics Satcom Technologies, Airborne International and various South African suppliers venture.

Stratosat Datacom is part of the Schauenburg International Group, who won the tender issued by SKA (SA) in 2012 to design, build and install 64, 13.5 meter Offset Gregorian deep space telescopes for the MeerKAT project.

Stratosat Datacom teamed up with General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies, global leader in the design and building of advanced radio telescope antennas, to install the MeerKAT radio telescope antennas.

For this purpose Stratosat Datacom opened up a Panel Manufacturing Facility in Kempton Park in November 2014. The first four antennas were completed at the SKA site near Carnarvon in the Northern Cape at the end of March 2015, which was a major milestone.

For the purpose of manufacturing the subreflectors based on composites, Stratosat has additionally partnered with Airborne International based in the Netherlands and a market leader in highly specialised composite structures.

In February the first shipment of material, from General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies in the US, arrived on site in Elandsfontein, where Stratosat Datacom together with the team from Airborne International started the production of the composite sub-reflectors in Elandsfontein.

“Based on one of its fundamental business-principles of Growing in Partnerships, the Schauenburg Group is committed to foster its foothold in SA through technology transfer and creating local job opportunities. I am really proud of what we have accomplished so far in cooperation with domestic and foreign suppliers”, said Florian Schauenburg, CEO of Schauenburg International Group.

The project, which forms part of the greater SKA project, required that at least 75% of the components be manufactured locally, resulting in the establishment of the two manufacturing sites by Stratosat over the past 12 months.

International agreement

Part of the agreement in building these antennas in SA is to transfer skills and knowledge to South Africans.

“In order to further promote education and training in the country we have recently established an education trust to provide bursaries to young black students and we have joined the German Chamber’s Commercial Advancement Training Scheme programme, which is based on integrated learning covering theoretical studies with practical experience in the work place”, stated Dieter Kovar, Managing Director of Stratosat Datacom.

Vision

Stratosat Datacom’s vision is that this facility will serve as a technology hub for the telecommunications industry to promote the further development of radio astronomy research by bringing new technology and skills into the country.  The long-term intention is to manufacture panels based on different technologies such as aluminium and composites according to customer needs.

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