1. Mirror coatings for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope:
  2. requirements and solutions
    1. Abstract
      1. 1. INTRODUCTION
    2. 2. Large Synoptic Survey Telescope
    3. 3. LSST Mirrors Coatings
    4. 4. LSST Coating Plant Requirements
      1. 4.1. Coating Facility General Description
      2. 4.2. Coating Plant Main Requirements
      3. 4.3. Coating Plant Design Solutions
    5. 5. Conclusion
    6. 6. Acknowledgements
    7. References

Mirror coatings for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope:

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requirements and solutions
Authors: J. Sebag, T. Vucina, J. Andrew, D. Neill, G. Poczulp
LSST, 950 N Cherry Ave., Tucson 85719 AZ USA
The coating of large ground-based astronomical telescope mirrors is always a challenge and the
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) contains some of the largest monolithic mirrors ever
made for astronomy: a 3.4m diameter convex secondary mirror and an 8.4m diameter concave
primary mirror. Bare aluminum coating deposited by evaporation is the most common type of
coating deposited on such large mirrors. However, following the success of the Gemini Telescope
coatings, LSST has chosen to develop a similar process based on magnetron sputtering deposition.
We present the specific requirements for coating the large LSST mirrors and describe the solutions
developed to meet these specifications, describing the design features and the major performance
Magnetron sputtering deposition is a technique that is used commonly in industry and that has
been applied to small and medium size astronomical mirrors. However, for large monolithic
astronomical mirrors (diameter of 4m or above) the evaporation process is the most commonly
developed and used technique in the astronomical community where aluminum is the metal the
most commonly deposited. Unlike the conventional evaporation method, magnetron sputtering
deposition of coatings on large astronomical telescope mirrors has so far been solely implemented
on the Twin Gemini Telescopes [1,2] and the European Southern Observatory Very Large
Telescope (VLT) [3]. Both of these observatories were designed with 8m diameter monolithic
meniscus mirrors.
Large telescopes are usually located on remote elevated sites that are inherently dusty and windy.
Because of these conditions, the coatings can age rapidly and their reflectivity will degrade with
time. Protecting the coating with a protective layer or layers increases its durability. In addition,
the coating lifetime can be extended by allowing regular washes to maintain a high reflectivity
level and therefore increasing the period between successive coatings. Although bare coatings have
also been cleaned in-situ, the protective layer allows for a better cleaning of the mirror surface for
example using wash mops with reduced risk of coating removal in case of adhesion issue.
Extending the coating lifetime reduces the downtime in terms of science operations, as a shutdown
for coating a large mirror is generally a major disruptive activity that requires a long preparation.
It is a potentially hazardous period for the glass as many activities are happening in its close
proximity. It is also important to note that the coating recipe shall minimize the number of layers

deposited on such large mirrors as the stripping operation may become more and more difficult to
remove completely the thin films within a reasonable time duration.
2. Large Synoptic Survey Telescope
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) is a large, ground-based, wide-field survey
telescope, which is currently in construction on the summit of Cerro Pachón in Chile [4]. The
project is designed to image at a fast cadence the available southern sky during a ten years survey,
analyze the data to produce alerts and object catalogs, archive the raw and processed data, and
serve the data.
This achievement is accomplished via a three-mirror telescope design consisting of an 8.4-meter
Primary Mirror (M1), 3.5-meter Secondary Mirror (M2), and a 5.0-meter Tertiary Mirror (M3).
This optical design accommodates a 3.5-degree field of view, feeding a large three-lens refractive
Camera sampled by a 3.2 gigapixel focal plane array. The survey will yield contiguous overlapping
imaging of 20,000 square degrees of sky in six photometric bands [ugrizY] (320–1060 nm to
magnitudes 26.5-27 AB).
The LSST has a very unique, compact, optical arrangement, figure 1. The tertiary mirror (M3)
resides within the 5-m diameter central hole of the primary mirror (M1). The two mirrors are a
monolith called the M1M3 mirror, sharing the same single substrate [5]. The camera is positioned
directly inside the secondary mirror (M2) center hole with its optics located between the M1M3
mirror and the M2 mirror. The M1M3 mirror substrate is made of Ohara E6 borosilicate glass and
was spinned-cast over a honeycomb mold and polished at the University of Arizona Steward
Observatory Mirror Lab (SOML). Temperature and strain measurements were performed to
demonstrate that it would be safe to use a magnetron sputtering process for coating this type of
mirrors [6]. The M2 mirror, fabricated from ultra-low expansion (ULE) glass at Corning, did not
require a similar demonstration. It is currently being polished at Harris in Rochester, New York.
3. LSST Mirrors Coatings
The required minimum throughput of the combined three mirrors is provided in table 1 as the
averaged reflectivity over each of the six LSST photometric bands.
Table 1: Required minimum averaged throughput per filter.
u-band g-band r-band
z-band Y-band

The current baseline is to use protective aluminum for all mirrors but a combination of protective
aluminum and silver coating is expected to give the best performances relative to the throughput
requirements, cleaning requirements and extended lifetime. Figure 2 show the possible final
throughput using a combination of different recipes of coatings, M1M3 coated with bare aluminum
and M2 with protected silver (and vice-versa) from measurements obtained from coatings
deposited with the Gemini coating chamber for the Gemini and SOAR telescopes. Gemini has
developed a successful multilayer protected silver recipe that can be implemented for LSST given
the similarities of the environment conditions and the size of the mirrors. This protected silver
recipe has a high performance at visible and near IR regions that has been maintained for duration
of at least 5 years with an appropriate cleaning/washing cycle. Its main drawback is the lack of
reflectivity in the u-band. These combinations of coatings per mirror were shown to be the best
solution for LSST until a new recipe of material on a single mirror can be probed [7]. The protected
aluminum facing up will allow to maintain, to clean and to wash the M1M3 mirror. A protected
silver facing down with the M2 mirror may allow extending the lifetime of the coating for years,
since at Gemini South the same M2 protected silver has had a lifetime of more than 12 years with
the same original protected silver coating. Regular/weekly CO2 cleaning of the mirrors is required
in order to reach such results and yearly or biannual in-situ washes will need to be implemented
[8]. These operations will be performed during the day improving the overall operational
4. LSST Coating Plant Requirements
4.1. Coating Facility General Description
The coating plant will be located at the service floor of the LSST summit facility building, sharing
this level with the camera maintenance rooms, the platform lift and the shipping and receiving area
(figure 3). The facility building overhead crane was designed to be available during the installation
of the coating chamber on the summit.
The Coating Plant area will be capable of receiving the M1M3 and M2 mirror assemblies after
removal from the telescope via a platform lift that will run vertically to the service floor where the
Coating Plant is located. The size of the cleaning and stripping area and the coating chamber are
driven by the size of the 8.4m diameter M1M3 mirror, which cannot be removed, from its cell
during stripping, cleaning and coating. Handling procedures and the risk of overstressing the glass
during removal of the M1M3 mirror from its cell require that the mirror be supported in its cell
during the stripping and coating process. The mirror and cell assembly mass is approx. 55 metric
tons and will be transported on a powered cart on rails that run through the facility and under the
coating chamber.
The Coating Plant level will also hold all support equipment to coat and strip the M1M3 and M2
mirrors, like vacuum pumps, cryogenics systems, transport rails, coating office, magnetrons

maintenance room, electronic and electrical system, chemical treatment plant, de-water and regular
water system, handling cranes, refrigeration system and a clean room environment.
4.2. Coating Plant Main Requirements
During the lifetime of the observatory, the M1M3 and M2 mirrors will require periodic recoating.
The main purpose of the Coating Plant is to provide the equipment and logistics to coat the M1M3
and M2 mirrors, and to include the equipment for mirror cleaning and stripping in preparation for
During washing, stripping and coating, the M1M3 mirror must remained inside its mirror cell, and
this cell will constitute the lower vacuum vessel of the coating chamber during this operation.
Consequently, the coating chamber lower vessel will be moved from under the upper vessel and
replaced with the M1M3 mirror cell.
In comparison, the M2 mirror will be removed from its mirror cell, transferred onto a wash stand
for washing/stripping, and then placed on a dedicated M2 support system inside the coating
chamber lower vessel for coating. The M2 mirror cell will not be used during coating.
Because of its large diameter, the M1M3 mirror stripping, washing and drying process will be
complex. Procedures already developed and practiced by other telescopes with such large mirrors
will be adapted and implemented for LSST with the safety measures to keep personnel and
equipment safe. The coating plant is required to include safety interlocks and equipment during
these activities.
The M2 mirror washing, stripping and drying process will be simpler and will be mostly manual
as its surface is smaller than the M1M3 mirror surface and is easily accessible from the inside and
outside diameters due to its large inside diameter dimension.
Because the M1M3 mirror must remain in its cell, it is not possible to rotate the mirror alone during
coating deposition. It would require rotating the whole mirror with the mirror cell if the magnetrons
are to be kept fixed. Instead, the requirement is to design a magnetron rotation system attached to
the upper vessel to keep the mirror fixed.
To provide the combination of coatings required for LSST, the Coating Chamber must be capable
of depositing aluminum, silver, silicone and nickel-chrome. In addition, the M1 and M3 mirrors
being in one glass substrate are required to be coated during the same cycle. The specification is
to have four linear magnetrons located above the M1 surface and four linear magnetrons located
above the M3 surface because the magnetrons are already required to rotate. In addition, the
position angle of the M3 magnetrons is specified to be adjustable to coat a concave surface and a
convex surface to be used for the M2 mirror coating.

During the M1M3 mirror coating, heating of the mirror substrate by the deposition system shall
not produce a temperature gradient across the mirror diameter surface and through the mirror
faceplate thickness greater than 5 degrees Celsius. Because the mirror is made of spin-cast
borosilicate glass, the working stress of the mirror non-polished surfaces is 100 psi (0:69 MPa),
resulting in a local temperature difference limit of 5 °C. Temperature and strain measurements
were conducted [6] to verify this requirement.
The roughing pumps alone shall be able to maintain a pressure of at least 2.7 x10
mbar in ~1h
time duration. With the deposition equipment installed and with the M2 support system and/or
sample holders installed in the coating chamber, a high vacuum pressure better than 10
(goal of 3x10
mbar) shall be attained in the vacuum vessel starting from ambient air conditions
within ~8 hours.
Coating Plant Design Solutions
The LSST baseline design is shown in figures 4, 5 and 6. The upper vessel is a stainless steel vessel
that can be lower or raised in the vertical direction using four screw jacks. The upper vessel is first
raised high enough in order to move the M1M3 cell or the lower vessel with the M2 mirror under
it, then lowered down until its flange contacts the M1M3 cell flange or the lower vessel flange.
The four screw jacks are supported by a frame designed with enough reinforcements to resist the
seismic requirements. The upper vessel is composed of an intermediate ring attached to the top
section of the upper vessel to support an inflatable seal that contacts the M1M3 mirror outside
diameter (OD) to separate the vacuum between the M1M3 cell and the upper vessel. This
intermediate ring is detachable from the top section to allow inspection of the contact between the
seal and the mirror. The upper vessel has curtains al around its perimeter to provide a clean
environment under the vessel for maintenance. A filtered air blowing system provides a slightly
positive air pressure inside that space to keep the dust out.
The magnetrons are suspended on the upper vessel through a rotation bearing. A cable chain
located above the rotation bearing provides enough angular range for all the utility lines to rotate
with the magnetrons. A ferro-fluidic rotating seal located around the main rotating axis of the
support frame is used to seal the vacuum in the upper vessel. The utilities are routed down through
the rotating axis to a vacuum feedthrough. From there, the utilities are connected to each
magnetron using flexible stainless steel lines.
The position of the M1 magnetrons is always kept fixed but the M2/M3 magnetrons are adjusted
manually to match the M2 or M3 mirror surface shape. To change their slope, the end of the
magnetron assembly located toward the OD of the mirror has a fixed pivot point while the other
end of the magnetron is simply changed and locked manually in height. Once the magnetron is
locked in that position, no other adjustment is possible afterwards. Position switches will be
installed to report the magnetron position to the control system.

The lower vessel is a separate vessel supported by a trolley to move in both the front and back
directions. It includes a nine point whiffle tree mount that supports the M2 mirror with a lateral
restraint system. The lower vessel drive system is attached to the trolley support frame. To produce
a uniform loading of the lower vessel, a compliant mount is used between the frame and the vessel
to compensate for tip/tilt misalignment when lowering the upper vessel on top of the lower vessel.
The support frame is designed to allow storage of the M1M3 mirror cart under the lower vessel
when not in used.
The vacuum pumping system for the coating chamber is composed of a rotary vane pumps system
with isolation valves for rough pumping. After pumping with the rotary vane pumps, the roots
pumps are used. When the pumping system reaches a vacuum pressure of at least 2.7 10
the main valve is closed and the cryopumps gate valves are fully opened to start pumping the
coating chamber with the cryopumps. Four cryopumps are used to ensure a uniform pumping over
the whole volume of the chamber.
The Coating plant includes not only the coating chamber and all its utility equipment, but also the
cleaning and stripping equipment used to prepare the mirrors before they are coated. The stripping
equipment includes an M2 Wash Stand, a Platform system around the perimeter of the M1M3
mirror, a Rolling Bridge for access over the top of the M1M3 mirror, a rotating Rinse Boom and
Air Knife Assembly and an effluent collection system for both the M1M3 mirror and the M2
The M2 Wash Stand will safely support the mirror during the stripping and cleaning process as
well as collect effluent draining off the mirrors optical surface. The stand will allow access to the
OD and ID for cleaning, stripping and drying of the optical surface.
The mirror optical surface will be ~3 meters high and access to the surface is made possible by a
deployable platform system. The platform system will be constructed around the OD of the mirror
after it arrives in the cleaning and stripping area. The platform allows complete 360-degree access
around the OD of the M1 surface with handrails around the outer perimeter.
The perimeter platform will allow good access to the OD of the M1 surface but it will not allow
enough access to the M3 surface and the center hole of the mirror. The M1M3 rolling bridge
assembly will remedy this issue by moving over the top of the mirror to give access to the mirrors
surface that is not accessible from the perimeter platform.
The M1M3 rinse and dry boom assembly rotates above the center of the mirror. The design uses a
pivoting jib attached to the facility column on the side of the cleaning and stripping area. A rotating
boom with an air knife and rinse boom are suspended from the end of the jib beam by means of a
motorized rotary union. A wired control pendant is used to control the deployment of jib. A rotating
rinse wand with spray nozzles will be installed to apply tap water or DI water to the optical surface
of the M1M3 mirror. The rinse wand is attached to a rotating boom assembly suspended from a
motorized rotary union at the end of the pivoting jib. A series of adjustable nozzles are spaced

along the length of the rinse wand. Since the air knife assembly is located directly adjacent to the
rinse wand, a plastic barrier is placed between the wand and air knife to prevent overspray and
splash water from the mirror surface to reach the air knife.
The concave surfaces of the M1M3 mirror create a large funnel toward the center hole of the mirror
where the effluent are collected in a drain placed in the center hole. This central drain is sealed to
the inside edge of the M3 using tape. A support post placed inside the M1M3 cell supports the
bottom of the drain and allows a person from the rolling bridge assembly to stand in the center of
the drain.
5. Conclusion
The LSST multi-layer coating plant will provide a deposition system for high reflective optical
coating and a cleaning and stripping station for the primary/tertiary mirror (M1M3) and the
secondary mirror (M2). The deposition unit will be designed to operate in the summit facility
building on Cerro Pachón, Chile. Sputtering technology will be utilized to deposit the thin films.
The cleaning and stripping station design will include all the equipment required for a safe and
efficient process to prepare the mirrors before they are coated.
The current plan is to deliver the fully installed and tested coating plant on the summit towards the
beginning of fall 2018. The coating over the M2 mirror surface is planned right after delivery
during the second semester of 2018 to be followed soon after by the coating of the M1M3 mirror.
6. Acknowledgements
LSST project activities are supported in part by the National Science Foundation through
Cooperative Support Agreement (CSA) Award No. AST-1227061 under Governing Cooperative
Agreement 1258333 managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
(AURA), and the Department of Energy under contract with the SLAC National Accelerator
Laboratory. Additional LSST funding comes from private donations, grants to universities, and in-
kind support from LSSTC Institutional Members.
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operation”, SPIE Vol. 6273, 2006
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performance of the VLT 8 meter coating unit”, SPIE Vol. 2871, 1997

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Schoening, “LSST Telescope and Site Status”, SPIE Vol. 9145, 2014
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Applied Optics, vol. 49, no. 24, pp. 4610–4620, 2010
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Coating Studies”, SPIE Vol. 6273, 2006
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M. Boccas; C. Araya; C. Ah Hee; C. Cavedoni
“Gemini Primary Mirror In-Situ Wash”,
SPIE Vol. 7012, 2008

Figure 1.- LSST Optical Diagram.
Figure 2.- Throughput comparison of Al/Ag/Al and Ag/Al/Ag combinations with LSST 6 filter
Wavelength (nm)
LSST Throughput (Al-Ag-Al) / M1M3 with Al and M2 with Ag
LSST Throughput (Ag-Al-Ag) / M1M3 with Ag and M2 with Al
Averaged 3-mirror throughput per filter requirement
u Filter
g Filter
r Filter
i Filter
z Filter
Y Filter

Figure 3.- Summit Facility Layout

Figure 4.- LSST Coating Chamber Baseline Design
Figure 5.- LSST Baseline Design of the M1M3 Mirror Coating Configuration.
Figure 6.- LSST Baseline Design of the M1M3 Cleaning and Stripping Configuration.
M1M3 Rolling

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