The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) is currently by far the most ambitious proposed ground-based optical survey. With initial funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories, and private sponsors, the design and development efforts are well underway at many institutions, including top universities and national laboratories. Solar System mapping is one of the four key scientific design drivers, with emphasis on efficient Near-Earth Object (NEO) and Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) detection, orbit determination, and characterization. The LSST system will be sited at Cerro Pachon in northern Chile. In a continuous observing campaign of pairs of 15 s exposures of its 3,200 megapixel camera, LSST will cover the entire available sky every three nights in two photometric bands to a depth of V=25 per visit (two exposures), with exquisitely accurate astrometry and photometry. Over the proposed survey lifetime of 10 years, each sky location would be visited about 1000 times, with the total exposure time of 8 hours distributed over several broad photometric bandpasses. The baseline design satisfies strong constraints on the cadence of observations mandated by PHAs such as closely spaced pairs of observations to link different detections and short exposures to avoid trailing losses. Due to frequent repeat visits LSST will effectively provide its own follow-up to derive orbits for detected moving objects.
Detailed modeling of LSST operations, incorporating real historical weather and seeing data from Cerro Pachon, shows that LSST using its baseline design cadence could find 90% of the PHAs with diameters larger than 250 m, and 75% of those greater than 140 m within ten years. However, by optimizing sky coverage, the ongoing simulations suggest that the LSST system, with its first light in 2013, can reach the Congressional mandate of cataloging 90% of PHAs larger than 140m by 2020. In addition to detecting, tracking, and determining orbits for these PHAs, LSST will also provide valuable data on their physical and chemical characteristics (accurate color and variability measurements), constraining PHA properties relevant for risk mitigation strategies. In order to fulfill the Congressional mandate, a survey with an etendue of at least several hundred m2deg2, and a sophisticated and robust data processing system is required. It is fortunate that the same hardware, software and cadence requirements are driven by science unrelated to NEOs: LSST reaches the threshold where different science drivers and different agencies (NSF, DOE and NASA) can work together to efficiently achieve seemingly disjoint, but deeply connected, goals.