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NRF status for Radio Astronomy Observatory


South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) has been declared as a National Research Facility under the National Research Foundation (NRF), while the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) has been withdrawn.
The announcement was made by Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, who says the NRF and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) have been working towards the consolidation of South Africa’s radio astronomy facilities.
South Africa has embarked on an ambitious radio astronomy programme which included winning the bid to co-host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Telescope; beginning construction of the MeerKAT telescope and establishing the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN).
This much larger portfolio needs to be co-ordinated in a coherent way. Minister Pandor has therefore gazetted the simultaneous withdrawal of the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) as a National Research Facility of the NRF and the establishment of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) as a National Research Facility.
SARAO will incorporate HartRAO and all instruments and projects currently operated by SKA SA, including the MeerKAT, the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7), and the AVN as well as the associated human capital development and commercialisation endeavours.
SARAO will operate as a National Research Facility within the NRF and will be responsible for carrying out South Africa’s radio astronomy research and construction programme.
NRF’s CEO Dr Molapo Qhobela says: “SARAO will operate as a hub for radio astronomy, reinforcing South Africa’s position as a key player in this field. In addition, this will allow for the skills that already exist within the various radio astronomy projects such as MeerKAT and AVN to be deployed as required, making the system more resource efficient.
“HartRAO, which was originally established as NASA’s Deep Space Station 51, will continue its current operations both in terms of activities such as space geodesy and Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) as well as a training site for our African partners in radio astronomy. We look forward to the successful realisation of this new National Research Facility,” he adds.