Radio Astronomy

MeerKAT will act as a precursor instrument for the planned international Square Kilometer Array , and is destined to be a collection of 60+ offset-Gregorian reflector antennas - each roughtly 13m in diameter and containing multiple receivers cooled to cryogenic tempreatures. It should see first light by mid-decade, with an exciting bouquet of science experiments just waiting for the instrument's completion.

The technical requirements are severe, and EMSS is fortunate to be in a position to assist with the South African development efforts- specifically its receiver systems. We are responsible for the development and integration of the cryogenic cooler system, the associated vacuum maintenance inside the receiver vessel, the high-fidelity receive antenna development and the first stage low-noise amplification. Our control, monitoring, power supply and overall fluid cooling sub-systems all play vital roles to support this multi-disciplinary antenna system.

Aerial view of the MeerKAT Precursor Array (aka MPA or KAT-7).

Very stringent requirements exist on the reflector antenna integrity and shape, and we play a role in establishing the causal links between real-world tolerances and EM-world performance. Some traditional high-frequency rules-of-thumb break down when entering the world of small-diameter reflectors, with complex geometry, operating in VHF or L-band. Armed with FEKO, an intimate knowledge of its kernel capabilities, and with rapid access to the in-house FEKO development team when special functionality is required, we are positioned very favourably to assist the MeerKAT project with such optical design problems.

Our cryogenic receiver installed at the prime focus of one of the KAT-7 reflectors.