The MMS dish was installed in August 2019 by the team led by MMS Director Heinrich Bauermeister and consists of a fine aluminium mesh embedded in fibreglass. The MMS dish can tilt in elevation 30 degrees either side of zenith. “Designing and manufacturing this dish was a serious trade-off between performance and cost. For this reason, the mount was kept as low and simple as possible and the dish itself as thin as possible without compromising too much on performance. The single piece composite material dish does not need any post-manufacturing setup, and the mount is low enough to facilitate easy adjustment of the dish elevation by one person,” said Bauermeister.
The NJV/Rebcon dish was installed in October 2019 by the team led by Warren Butler, who indicated that “team input of the design development was dynamic to incorporate practical solutions regarding assembly/disassembly, transportation, ease of installation on site in a remote location and serviceability of the prototype once installed”.
“The design intent was realised by a form of laser-cut profiled aluminium elements which provided the parabolic accuracy the project required. The appropriate skills and collaboration has resulted in a practical buildable and easily erectable structure, that is fully recyclable,” he added.
The dish is made of aluminium mesh with an aluminium backing structure. Furthermore, it is fixed in azimuth and can tilt in elevation down to the horizon. Of the collaboration between the HIRAX project and NJV Consulting/Rebcon, Linda Ness, Director of NJV Consulting (Pty) Ltd asserted: “Collaboration between designer and fabricator on unusual engineering fabrications at conceptual stage is invaluable, and this was one of those great opportunities. Early interaction like this allows cross-over of skills between the two companies, who have worked together for many years. With multiple units in mind, material optimisation, repeat fabrication and erection are key. Detailed structural modelling analyses and finer stress design work could then be downstream from wholly considered upfront thinking, sketching and deliberation together with the scientists.”
The HIRAX team hopes that these partnerships are the first of many to come between the project and South African industry. In addition to collaborating on HIRAX dish hardware, the project hopes to manufacture some of its subsystems in South Africa, work with local technology companies to develop big data analysis tools, and hire local labour for the deployment of the instrument in the Karoo.
Kavilan Moodley, Principal Investigator of the project and Professor at UKZN, emphasised: “Through these and future collaborations with industry and the scientific community, the project endeavours to build technical capacity nationally as South Africa increases its radio astronomy portfolio through MeerKAT and the development towards the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).”