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Inside Los Alamos National LaboratoryInternational, Space and Response (ISR)
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Space Science and Applications (ISR-1)

ISR-1 applies world-class expertise in space and astrophysical sciences and associated technologies to detect, characterize, and respond to national security threats.

Using satellite-born particle, gamma ray, X-ray, and neutron detectors, ISR-1 monitors the atmosphere and near-Earth space for possible nuclear tests. ISR-1 capabilities are broad-based and cover the gamut from mission concept to sensor design/manufacture/calibration, as well as spacecraft integration, mission operations, data analysis, and theory. ISR-1 is proud of our international reputation in nuclear phenomenology and proliferation-detection expertise.

Neutron Detector to  monitor nuclear test ban treaties
ISR-1 researchers test a prototype neutron detector developed to monitor nuclear test ban treaties.

ISR-1 is engaged in a mixture of civilian- and defense-related programs supported by DOE, DOD, NASA, and other US government agencies. ISR-1's primary DOE sponsored mission is to detect and deter clandestine nuclear weapons testing. In support of this mission, ISR-1 develops and operates sensors to detect particle and electromagnetic emissions from nuclear weapons. ISR-1 has also designed, built, and employed sensors that monitor natural and man-made 'backgrounds' in space to study their effects on space systems.

ISR-1 is also engaged in a number of pioneering space missions with our primary civilian customer, NASA, to enhance our underlying expertise in basic research and contribute to our technology base. Those programs cover a number of disciplines, including magnetospheric physics, planetary exploration, astrophysics, gamma-ray astronomy, optical transient detection, space situational awareness, and solar-terrestrial interactions.

ISR-1's current and near-finished programs, of which we can only list highlights, illustrate the breadth and depth of our activities:

  • Neutron, alpha-particle, and gamma-ray spectrometers for NASA's Lunar Prospector mission. These instruments discovered ice on the moon and are helping to write a new chapter in lunar exploration.
  • Planetary exploration missions, such as Mars 2001 and the Europa Radar Mapper, which will remotely sense the subsurface composition of those bodies.
  • The HETE satellite, which detects and localizes gamma-ray bursts in real time and notifies ground observatories to start observations.
  • The RAPTOR ground-based robotic telescope that can autonomously observe gamma-ray bursts as they are happening.
  • The SWIFT satellite, which will detect and localize gamma-ray bursts and be the first satellite to autonomously slew to observe the bursts while they are happening.
  • Solar wind missions--including the Ulysses, ACE, and Genesis missions--to collect, analyze, and return samples of solar wind to Earth.
  • The IMAGE and TWINS missions, which will provide an entirely new view of the otherwise invisible magnetosphere using neutral-atom imaging.
  • New and continuing missions, such as ARII, global positioning systems, and the SABRS mission, to verify limited and comprehensive test ban treaties. The SABRS mission will package five NUDET instruments in one integrated miniature package.
  • Other projects in gamma-ray or MUON imaging for homeland security and gamma-ray astronomy.
  • Numerous additional programs in magnetospheric physics instrumentation, theory, and modeling, as well as new innovative technology developments that will pave the way into the future.


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