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  • Intelligence and Space Research

    Create, deliver, support and exploit innovative sensing systems for space-based, airborne and ground-based applications to address critical national security and scientific challenges

    Los Alamos National Laboratory has designed, built and analyzed data from instrumentation for space missions both near and far for more than 60 years.

    Today, the Intelligence and Space Research (ISR) Division continues the Laboratory’s legacy of helping ensure our nation’s security, discovering the processes that govern the space environments, studying the composition of planetary bodies, and capturing the most distant, most powerful cosmic explosions.

    Since the launch of the first Vela satellites in 1963, we have designed, built, and operated instruments to monitor international compliance with the Limited Test Ban Treaty. Los Alamos has flown about 400 instruments comprising more than 1,400 sensors on more than 200 total launches.

    Los Alamos-led instrument teams have published studies in both Science and Nature journals on

    • early supernova evolution
    • energization of the radiation belts
    • weathering of rocks on Mars
    • thunderstorm disruption of the ionosphere
    • interaction of the Sun and the interstellar medium
    • and much more



    • Extreme engineering: electrical, mechanical, computer, software, and system engineering for development and deployment of sensors within tightly constrained mass, power, and volume resources that out-perform requirements, operate autonomously in a harsh radiation environment, survive launch and landing, and must operate through known and unknown hazards
    • Data to information in space: onboard high-performance computing and reconfigurable computing
    • Space weather and space environment: plasma mass spectrometry, neutral atom imaging, high energy ion and electron detection, heliospheric and magnetospheric science
    • Radio sciences: electromagnetic detection (kHz to THz), lightning physics, ionospheric physics, atmospheric-ionospheric coupling
    • Time-domain astrophysics: impulsive and transient events across the electromagnetic spectrum (from optical to gamma ray)
    • Nuclear detection: neutrons, x-rays, and gamma rays, planetary physics
    • Hyperspectral imaging: signal transport through the atmosphere, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, planetary geophysics
    • Modeling and simulation for understanding and prediction: plasmas, space environment, ionosphere, atmospheric-ionospheric coupling, supernova evolution


    Los Alamos continues to rely on a highly innovative spiral of science, technology, and engineering.

    Collaborative teams of scientists and engineers develop new methods and techniques for national security payloads, as well as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) missions such as:

    • Van Allen Probes
    • Mars Science Laboratory
    • Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX)
    • Swift
    • Two Wide-angle Imaging Neutral-atom Spectrometers (TWINS)
    • Cassini
    • Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE)
    • Mars Odyssey
    • Deep Space 1
    • Ulysses
    • Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE)
    • Lunar Prospector
    • Curiosity and Perseverance Mars Rovers

    Opportunities for Students

    ISR offers numerous onsite and remote internships every year for students from high school through post-graduate.


    The Intelligence and Space Research division at Los Alamos National Laboratory employs numerous specialists in varied and multi-dimensional roles who work synergistically to support national security and science. Our teams depend on highly motivated, innovative professionals with a wide variety of experience and professional skills.

    • Scientists
    • Mechanical, Electrical and Computer Engineers
    • Technical Project Managers
    • Systems Engineers
    • Electronics Layout, Fabrication, and Assembly Technicians and Technologists
    • Production and Quality Assurance Specialists
    • Software Developers
    • Cybersecurity Specialists
    • Engineering and Research Technologists
    • Machinists
    • Mechanical Fabrication and Assembly Technicians and Technologists
    • 2:03
      LANL Science Team Cheers Curiosity Landing
      Members of the ChemCam science team from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the French Space Institute celebrate the successful landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars. The team then quickly moves to the ChemCam operations center to begin preparations for the first-ever laser-based interrogation of Martian geology.
    • 3:21
      Los Alamos Space Weather Summer School
      The Los Alamos Space Weather Summer School is sponsored by the Institute of Geoscience, Planetary Physics and Signature Science (IGPPS).
    Image not yet available for Herbert Funsten

    Herbert Funsten

    Division Leader

    Headshot of Carissa Brealey

    Carissa Brealey

    Deputy Division Leader

    Image not yet available for Valerie Siewert

    Valerie Siewert

    Executive Office Administrator