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Space and Remote Sensing Sciences (ISR-2)

ISR-2 develops and applies remote sensing instrumentation, analysis, modeling, and machine learning to problems of national security and related sciences. ISR-2 applications include nonproliferation, detection of nuclear explosions, lightning science, climatology, broad-area mapping of land use, and environmental monitoring. We pursue new ideas in fundamental science and advanced technologies related to our mission and collaborate with a broad range of government, academic, and commercial programs.

The MTI satellite enables accurate quantitative analysis of thermal processes on the Earth's surface.

The ISR-2 staff is made up of approximately 70 professionals, including technical staff members, contractors, postdoctoral fellows, guest scientists, and technicians, as well as administrative support personnel. We host a large number of students, both individually and through several Laboratory and external programs. Our specific capabilities are demonstrated by the following major applications:

  • Optical and infrared remote sensing on satellites, aircraft, and on the ground in support of nonproliferation and environmental missions: We concentrate on physics-based end-to-end modeling and analysis, state-of-the-art radiometric calibrations, and innovative new instrumentation. Challenging new applications are in high-resolution spectroscopy for trace gases in the atmosphere and in accurate thermal measurements of the Earth's surface.
  • The Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) satellite, developed with Sandia National Laboratories and Savannah River Technology Center, was launched in March 2000. MTI's objective is to demonstrate advanced multispectral and thermal imaging, image processing, and associated technologies that could be used in future systems for detecting and characterizing facilities producing weapons of mass destruction. A key feature of MTI is its ground and on-orbit calibration technology, which is designed to achieve accurate and precise measurements of absolute as well as relative in-scene surface temperatures. ISR-2 has developed state-of-the-art calibration facilities and calibration science to support this goal. MTI will record images of participating government, industrial, and natural sites in 15 spectral bands, ranging from visible to long-wave infrared. MTI's spectral bands are carefully selected and calibrated to collect data needed to derive a broad range of information on facilities and activities, including surface temperatures, materials, water quality, and vegetation health. Additional bands provide simultaneous information on atmospheric water vapor, aerosol content, and sub-visual cloud presence.
  • The Remote Ultra-Low-Light Imager (RULLI) is a sensor system technology enabling breakthroughs in many application arenas. The core of the technology is a single-photon detection system. The RULLI sensor system measures, accurately and simultaneously, the position and absolute time of arrival for each detected photon, enabling reconstruction of the three dimensional scene.
  • The Fast On-Orbit Recording of Transient Events (FORTÉ) satellite has been in continuous operation since reaching orbit in August 1997. The FORTÉ effort is sponsored by the Department of Energy as a testbed for technologies applicable to U.S. nuclear detonation detection systems. FORTÉ's successful development and launch were the result of several years of dedicated work by a joint Los Alamos National Laboratory/Sandia National Laboratory project team. FORTÉ is in a circular, 800-km-altitude orbit inclined 70 degrees from the Earth's equator. FORTÉ carries a suite of optical and RF instruments that have been used to study of lightning from space as well as nuclear event detection technologies.The FORTÉ radio-frequency and optical micro-satellite has demonstrated monitoring Very High Frequency (VHF) lightning emissions, both alone and together with their optical counterparts. The VHF Global Lightning and Severe Storm Monitor (V-GLASS) system will use a constellation of VHF radio receivers and optical photodiode detectors aboard the upcoming Block IIF/III Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite constellation to monitor VHF lightning emissions on a global and continual basis.
  • EdotX is a new LANL ground-based lightning location and mapping system which will be deployed at various sites throughout Florida. Each EdotX sensor detects and samples the vertical electric field at up to 20 MHz. EdotX will study the propagation characteristics of high frequency radiation over the ground in association with close measurements of triggered lightning at Clamp Blanding, Florida during the summer months. In combination with highly-precise GPS timing, EdotX's goal is to locate sources in three dimensions (3D) by processing the arrival time of pulses detected at multiple stations. This will be used to map lightning in 3D over northern Florida. EdotX also aims to map the locations of lightning over most of the United States and beyond using lower frequency signals.
  • Satellite-based EMP Monitoring. The ISR-2 on-orbit EMP monitoring effort provides sensor design, flight hardware, scientific and technical consultation, ionospheric expertise, algorithm development, end-to-end systems modeling, on-orbit testing and anomaly resolution support for the Air Force's constellation of nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) sensors aboard the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite constellation. The sensor constellation currently consists of a mix of first-generation W-Sensor Receiver Processors (WSRPs) and second-generation Burst Detector W-Sensors (BDWs). Additionally, the next generation of EMP sensor called the Burst Detector V-Sensor (BDV) is currently being designed and built at LANL and scheduled for launch beginning in 2006. Collectively, these sensors address the nation's nuclear detonation verification and treaty monitoring needs and provide unique insight into a variety of ionospheric, radio propagation and lightning science issues.
  • Machine Learning for analysis of images and signal: ISR-2 is developing a set of software packages and reconfigurable computing hardware to enable rapid exploration and analysis of images and signals. These machine learning systems build customized, robust algorithms that find and exploit spectral and spatial signatures in multispectral, hyperspectral, panchromatic, and multi-instrument fused imagery.
  • ISR-2's GENIE machine learning tool uses an evolutionary algorithm to “grow” software to solve remote sensing problems. GENIE has been applied to a number of real word applications including urban disasters (New York City, Sep 11), natural disasters (Cerro Grande/Los Alamos wildfire), land-cover classification and environmental monitoring, biomedical imagery (cancer and pathogen detection), and planetary exploration (Mars and beyond).
  • Reconfigurable computing (LANL's POOKA system) enables adaptive processing of multi-spectral imagery at video rates using commercial hardware that plugs into standard workstations.



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