The Hydrogen Intensity and Real Time Analysis eXperiment (HIRAX) Project, which officially launched in 2018, is preparing to release an open tender for South African manufacturing of its first several hundred 6-metre diameter HIRAX radio telescopes. These telescopes will be part of the HIRAX main array, which will ultimately consist of 1024 telescopes to be built over the next few years. The main array will be located near the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) South Africa site in the Karoo, and will have important synergies with the 64-element MeerKAT radio telescope array, the country’s precursor to the SKA.
HIRAX is a multimillion Rand global project, with local funding from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the Department of Science and Technology through the National Research Foundation, and joint international funding from ETH Zurich and The University of Geneva.
The experiment is led by UKZN, and the consortium consists of 8 South African institutions and 18 international collaborating institutions.
By mapping about a third of the sky during its four years of observation, HIRAX will be able to determine the characteristics of dark energy during a critical period in our universe, between 7 – 11 billion years ago, when dark energy started to become the dominant component in the universe causing it to expand at an accelerated rate.
The main HIRAX array, combined with small arrays in partnering African countries, will be able to localize mysterious radio flashes called Fast Radio Bursts within their host galaxies, a feat not yet achieved for non-repeating bursts. This will be a vital first step in determining the cause of these bursts.
The tender for the HIRAX telescopes will include the development, transportation and installation of the telescope dishes, foundations, mounts, and radio receiver support structures at the HIRAX site in the Karoo. The tender is due for release at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2019, with an estimated value of approximately R25 million.