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Large Synoptic Survey Telescope takes shape in Chile

01 Oct 2018


Scaffolding to erect the giant dome that will protect the LSST arrived at the summit of Cerro Pachon in recent months. The project, slated for system first light in 2021 and to begin its vast survey of the night sky in late 2022, is said to be on budget and on schedule. Photo: LSST.


Among several forthcoming milestones, he expects the LSST's main "M1M3" mirror - which combines the primary and tertiary reflective optics - to arrive at the summit site almost exactly a year from now. The giant optical component has been in storage for the past three years, following its fabrication at the University of Arizona.

Meanwhile the 3.4 metre-diameter convex "M2" secondary mirror is nearing completion at contractor Harris Corporation. It's expected to be finished and delivered in October.

Of the giant 3-ton camera and its sensor, Krabbendam said that construction was "well on its way", with engineers currently assembling the 189 individual 4000x4000 pixel CCDs that make up the giant sensor into the required grid pattern. The camera also features three metre-scale refractive optics made by Ball Aerospace and Thales' SESO optical systems and components division; despite some minor issues with the optical surfaces each was progressing well.

Camera integration is to begin later this year, while in October the 300-ton telescope structure should be shipped from its current location in Spain, where it is currently undergoing tests.

Once operational, the telescope will need to move quickly to capture each successive wide-field image. Krabbendam said that the structure would need to shift to each subsequent 3.5-degree snapshot within just five seconds - demanding rapid acceleration to around 20 mph and an extremely stiff structure.

With dome completion expected in early 2019, lifting the three LSST mirrors into position via an 80-ton lift should follow. Other key elements on the way include a hexapod to hold the camera, and installation of a new fibre-optic link to carry all that data away from the summit.

And although the initial site construction has taken three years - one longer than had been planned - Krabbendam said that the project remained on budget, on schedule, and with plenty of money available for contingencies if required to hit the systemic first-light milestone in Q2 of 2021, and the start of the survey in October 2022.

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