The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) SA project office has acquired half of the land it needs to create a radio-quiet zone around the large radio telescope and is on track to complete the process by the end of 2018, says spokesman Lorenzo Raynard.
It is an important milestone in a sensitive process as, if the farmers in the area refuse to sell their land, the government can expropriate it. The SKA is an international science project located in SA and Australia and will be the world’s most powerful radio telescope once completed. The South African core is 90km from Carnarvon in the Northern Cape.
About 131,500ha of land surrounding the telescope’s 176-dish core needs to be free from radio-frequency interference. The project acquired 13,500ha of this land in 2008. In 2016 it embarked on a process to acquire another 118,000ha comprising 36 parcels of land close to the core as well as access rights to servitudes that will hold another 21 dishes.
The SKA SA project office has acquired 14 parcels of land, comprising 61,000ha and needs to buy another 18 parcels of land totalling 57,000ha. Four parcels of land originally earmarked for purchase no longer needed to be bought, but would provide access rights to servitudes, said Raynard. The land-acquisition project is one of three SKA processes under way in SA. The Department of Science and Technology has been driving the implementation of legislation to protect the site from radio interference.