Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability
Proud Legacy Bold Future Since 1943

50 Years of Space

Since 1943, some of the world’s smartest and most dedicated technical people have accomplished the difficult, the unexpected, and what sometimes seems impossible at Los Alamos.

50 YEARS OF SPACE Creating a safer, more secure tomorrow

x 1955
The first nuclear reactor-rocket program was launched to provide nuclear energy to propel an aircraft or rocket.
First nuclear reactor-rocket
x 1963
Designed and built to warn of banned nuclear tests, our Vela satellite instruments discovered cosmic gamma–ray bursts.
Satellites support science
x 1969
Investigating space
Supporting investigations in space, we created an electrical generator that obtains its power from radioactive decay: the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG).
Enabling space missions
x 1973
Bursts discovered
Our sensors aboard Vela satellites discovered gamma-ray bursts that emit as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun will emit during its entire 10-billion-year lifetime.
Detecting dying stars
Detonation detection
Los Alamos X-ray detector launched aboard GPS Satellite. The goal of these satellites was to support space–based positioning, navigation and to monitor for nuclear detonations.
Piggybacking on GPS
Missile defense
Los Alamos fired a beam of hydrogen particles in the first space test of the accelerator technology as a potential anti–missile weapon.
Space shield technology
x 1997
Exploring Saturn
Los Alamos developed scientific sensors, launched aboard NASA's Cassini mission that studies Saturn's atmosphere, magnetic fields, rings and diverse moons.
Oxygen detected
x 2002
Water on Mars
Los Alamos instruments find indications of massive amounts of water on Mars, further supported by our analysis and mapping that detected telltale signs—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Providing the evidence
x 2006
Predicting space radiation
Space is stormy and filled with radiation that destroys space systems, including satellites. A new model helps predict hazards to steer clear of danger.
Protecting satellites
x 2006
First thinking telescope
Without human guidance, our telescope found an anomaly: the birth of stellar–size black holes, possibly the most powerful events since the Big Bang.
RAPTOR sees into space
x 2010
Hand-held satellites
Miniscule satellites are inexpensive and versatile, and fit on almost anything launched into space. We built and launched four CubeSats within a few months, validating inexpensive design methodology that could withstand space radiation.
Affordable space research
x 2012
Radiation belt mysteries
Spacecraft roam the harsh space environment within the Van Allen radiation belts, studying the belts’ behaviors and their Earth impacts. Discoveries rewrite textbooks.
Probe results surprising
x 2013
Chemcam meets Mars
We continue to aid exploration of the Red Planet. Researchers discovered a streambed and tracked a trail of minerals that suggests water—lots of it—may have flowed.
Biosignatures in space
x 2013
Instruments aboard NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission probe the edge of our solar system, providing new panoramic views of our galaxy’s gateway.
x Creating tomorrow
Hidden dangers
New dangers require new defenses. We are experts at seeking and identifying threats in the skies, on the ground, underground and around the world.
Satellites and surveillance

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