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LSST Summit Facilities

The LSST summit facility is currently under construction in north-central Chile, on the Cerro Pachón ridge in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The entire Cerro Pachón area, including the LSST site, and the Gemini-South and SOAR telescopes, lies on a tract of land owned by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc. Cerro Pachón is inland and about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the support town of La Serena, where the LSST base facility is located.

The LSST summit facility is the structure that includes the telescope pier, a lower enclosure (30 meters in diameter) that supports a rotating dome, and an attached 32,000-square-foot (3000-square-meter) service and operations building. A separate enclosure nearby houses the LSST Auxiliary Telescope. 

The design for the LSST summit facility takes advantage of the natural topography of the El Peñón summit on Cerro Pachón. The main telescope enclosure occupies the highest and largest peak, and the attached service and operations building steps down into a saddle area to the southeast. The Auxiliary Telescope is located on a smaller peak farther to the east. The specific orientation of the summit facility was selected after extensive weather testing and a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis of the site verified that it provided the best seeing environment, or the least air disturbance, for the telescope. Geotechnical studies of the natural rock at the site have shown that it is strong and erosion-resistant.

An example of the environmental factors the LSST facility is designed to mitigate.The cutaway view of the telescope enclosure and service and operations building (above) shows their stepped-down layout. This design provides a contiguous protected environment for transporting and maintaining the camera and mirrors while still separating the telescope from the temperature-controlled spaces of the observatory facility. The heated operations spaces are below the service level with the heat-generating equipment located below that, and farthest from the telescope. An 80-ton platform lift will carry the mirrors and camera between the telescope and maintenance levels as necessary.

Dedicated maintenance areas in the support facility include a camera servicing area equipped with clean room spaces for working inside the cryostat that protects and cools the CCD detectors. The facility also contains a dedicated cleaning and coating area (referred to as the coating plant), where the LSST mirrors will be initially coated, as well as washed and recoated periodically during Operations. The mirrors and camera are not expected to leave the mountain, and will receive all necessary service at the summit facility during their entire operational life.

Construction of the summit facility is well underway; as of early 2019 the exterior of the building, excluding the Dome, is complete. Inside the building, major components have begun to arrive in Chile from their places of manufacture around the globe. In late 2018, the equipment for the coating plant arrived from Germany, and the Secondary Mirror (M2) arrived from Rochester, New York. 2019 will also be a busy year, with the anticipated arrival of cargo including the Telescope Mount Assembly and the Primary/Tertiary Mirror (M1M3). Major upcoming milestones can be viewed on the Project Schedule


Financial support for LSST comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Cooperative Agreement No. 1258333, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515, and private funding raised by the LSST Corporation. The NSF-funded LSST Project Office for construction was established as an operating center under management of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).  The DOE-funded effort to build the LSST camera is managed by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC).
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science. NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.   

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