Detecting small asteroids with the Space Surveillance Telescope
September 1, 2014
The ability of the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) to find small (2-15 m diameter) NEAs suitable for the NASA asteroid retrieval mission is investigated. Orbits from a simulated population of targetable small asteroids were propagated and observations with the SST were simulated. Different search patterns and telescope time allocation cases were considered, as well as losses due to FOV gaps and weather. It is concluded that a full-time, dedicated survey at the SST is likely necessary to find a useful population of these NEAs within the mission launch timeframe, especially if an object must be observed on >1 night at SST to qualify as a detection. The simulations were also performed for an identical telescope in the southern hemisphere, which is found to produce results very similar to the SST in New Mexico due to significant (~80%) overlap in the population of objects detected at each site. In addition to considering the SST's ability to detect small NEAs, a parallel study was performed focusing on >100 m diameter objects. This work shows that even with limited telescope time (3 nights per month) a substantial number of these larger objects would be detected.