Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

Space Science and Applications

Applying world-class expertise in space sciences and associated technologies to detect and characterize national security threats


  • Deputy Group Leader
  • Suzanne Nowicki
  • Email
  • Administrative Specialist
  • Lucia Herrera
  • Email
Twin probes in the two donut-shaped regions.

Artist’s view of the twin probes in the two donut-shaped regions of Earth’s magnetic field.

Leading a variety of U.S. civilian, defense-related programs

The Space Science and Applications Group (ISR-1) leads a variety of civilian and defense-related programs sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DoD), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and other U.S. government agencies. 

ISR-1 science programs cover several disciplines, including

  • magnetospheric physics
  • planetary exploration
  • gamma-ray astrophysics
  • space situational awareness
  • solar-terrestrial interactions

We are engaged in a number of pioneering basic-science missions, greatly enhancing our research and contributing to our technological base. In support of these missions, we develop sensors to detect nuclear emissions and measure natural and man-made radiations in space. 

Our many postdocs and affiliates are key collaborators. 

Focus Areas

ISR-1 capabilities extend from mission concept to design and calibration, data analysis, simulation, and modeling. Our capabilities include

  • engineering design and fabrication
  • ground system support
  • on-orbit operation
  • spacecraft integration

By providing satellite-borne gamma-ray, x-ray, and neutron detectors to the U.S. government, ISR-1 supports monitoring of the atmosphere and near-Earth space for nuclear detonations. Similarly, our charged-particle detectors support measurement of the natural environment.

We have an international reputation in the detection of nuclear phenomenology and in the data analysis, simulation, and modeling of the natural environment.

History and demographics

Our group's roots can be traced back to Project Vela, a series of satellites that were needed to ensure compliance with the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty.

The first Vela satellites were equipped with x-ray, neutron, and gamma-ray detectors, as well as charged particle and plasma sensors. These instruments provided some of the first measurements of Earth’s space radiation environment and the discovery of gamma-ray bursts.

The majority of ISR-1 staff hold PhDs in Space Physics, Nuclear Physics, or Plasma Physics.

Our group works closely with software engineers in Space Data Systems Group (ISR-3), as well as electrical and mechanical engineers in the Space Electronics and Signal Processing Group (ISR-4) and the Space Instrument Realization Group (ISR-5) on all of our projects and program development efforts.


Some of the Laboratory's core modeling and simulation, as well as sensor system design capabilities, reside within ISR-1. 

The group is in continuous pursuit of developing new programs in the areas of

  • space-based and ground-based nonproliferation
  • space physics, astrophysics, and planetary sciences
  • space situational awareness
  • nuclear physics and material science

We welcome collaborations in these areas and are always open to discussing our engagement in other areas of science and technology.