May 2015 • 2015AJ....149..172M
Abstract • We have carried out simulations to predict the performance of a new space-based telescopic survey operating at thermal infrared wavelengths that seeks to discover and characterize a large fraction of the potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid (NEA) population. Two potential architectures for the survey were considered: one located at the Earth-Sun L1 Lagrange point, and one in a Venus-trailing orbit. A sample cadence was formulated and tested, allowing for the self-follow-up necessary for objects discovered in the daytime sky on Earth. Synthetic populations of NEAs with sizes as small as 140 m in effective spherical diameter were simulated using recent determinations of their physical and orbital properties. Estimates of the instrumental sensitivity, integration times, and slew speeds were included for both architectures assuming the properties of newly developed large-format 10 μm HgCdTe detector arrays capable of operating at ∼35 K. Our simulation included the creation of a preliminary version of a moving object processing pipeline suitable for operating on the trial cadence. We tested this pipeline on a simulated sky populated with astrophysical sources such as stars and galaxies extrapolated from Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Explorer data, the catalog of known minor planets (including Main Belt asteroids, comets, Jovian Trojans, planets, etc.), and the synthetic NEA model. Trial orbits were computed for simulated position-time pairs extracted from the synthetic surveys to verify that the tested cadence would result in orbits suitable for recovering objects at a later time. Our results indicate that the Earth-Sun L1 and Venus-trailing surveys achieve similar levels of integral completeness for potentially hazardous asteroids larger than 140 m; placing the telescope in an interior orbit does not yield an improvement in discovery rates. This work serves as a necessary first step for the detailed planning of a next-generation NEA survey.