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Germany backs out from SKA

Sapa

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor is pleased Germany's withdrawal is not due to lack of confidence in the Square Kilometre Array project.

Part of the SKA project is taking place in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape. (Mary Cotton, SKA South Africa)

Germany has announced it will withdraw from the Square Kilometre Array organisation (SKA) in June next year, the science and technology ministry said on Friday.

“According to the SKA website, Germany informed the SKA yesterday [Thursday] about its intention to leave the organisation,” spokesman Lunga Ngqengelele said in a statement.

He said while the decision was regrettable, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor was satisfied this was not due to lack of confidence in the SKA project.

“This is rather because of difficult national financial circumstances around the funding of large research infrastructures in Germany and Europe,” said Ngqengelele.

On its website, the SKA said Germany’s decision would have no immediate consequences on the project due to the limited German funding issued so far.

“Involvement from German institutions, industry and scientists in the SKA’s science working groups, and in design work, is unlikely to be affected in the short-term,” the organisation said.

However, as the project entered its construction phase in 2017-2018, the German industry would be most affected as it would no longer be in a position to bid for major engineering contracts to be awarded for construction of the SKA.

The SKA project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area.

The project is taking place in South Africa’s Karoo region and in Australia.

Ngqengelele said Pandor would in the coming weeks set up a meeting with her German counterpart to further discuss the issue.  –Sapa

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