The Equinox special projects area was established to respond to our customers and their unique sensor and instrumentation needs. Special projects provides the full range from concepts, prototype development, and build to field test and demonstration. Special projects also serves as the center for several unique Equinox undertakings.



The tactical laser Comm project (TLC)
  • Tight beam - air to air
  • Total data and voice security
  • Low power
  • Ultimate data rate
  • Eye safety
  • Portable
  • GPS available

Laser Comm customers:

  • Lockheed Martin
  • USAF Wright Patterson AFB
Catadioptric Long Range


Fine Pointing Laser Tracker (FPLT)
Fine Pointing Laser Tracker Demonstrator (FPLTD)

High data rate satellite communications is a major thrust for applications in interplanetary missions, satellite communications, and space interferometry missions. Sub-microradian pointing stability enables
FPLTD Transceiver, Front
state-of-the-art laser transmitters to communicate from deep space to earth orbiters. This performance also reaches forward to the possibility of deep space mission propulsion systems using lasers. The laser comm community recognized the challenge to fill this need many years ago and pursued high pointing accuracy mechanisms capable of Line-of-Sight (LOS) maintenance while simultaneously suppressing the effects of spacecraft (mount platform) disturbances. Mr. Russ Mellon was a key technologist in the development of a breadboard instrument that demonstrated 50 nanoradian pointing stability. Mr. Mellon is now president of Equinox Interscience, the prime contractor for the next generation Fine Pointing Laser Tracker Demonstrator (FPLTD).

A proposal submitted by Lockheed Martin Space Systems (LMSS)/Equinox Interscience, Inc. (EI) to NASA's Advanced
FPLTD Transceiver, Back
Cross-Enterprise Technology Development (ACETD) NRA99-OSS-05 in February 2000 to build a brassboard next generation Fine Pointing Laser Tracker (FPLT) has been selected for funding. An FPLT will be designed and built by EI for LMSS. This FPLT will serve as the basis for the EI proposed next generation Fine Pointing Laser Tracker Demonstrator (FPLTD) as part of the New Millennium Program (NMP) Space Technology 6. FPLDT meets the needs and requirements for Acquisition, Tracking, and Pointing for Technology Area A6, Space-to-Space Communications.

The concept of the FPLT is based on an inertially stabilized 2-axis gimbal system. A next generation version of the FPLT along with a Remote Acquisition Beacon (RAB) Terminal will be integrated into an EI built and operated communications system for flight validation. The objective of this effort is to demonstrate optical comm at 500 km in space and show how this performance will extrapolate to 35 AU comm distances. The flight demo will show the capability of acquiring the distant beacon in less than 5 seconds and maintaining a lock on the signal for more than 1 hour with pointing update rate greater than 1kHz.

FPLT Customers

  • Lockheed Martin Space Systems

FPLTD Customers

  • Proposed to NASA Office of Space Science (OSS)


The Victor Project

  • 2D range image of 5.5 deg in EL by 12 deg in AZ
  • Semiconductor laser scan
  • 1-mrad angular resolution
  • 21.000 pixel image
  • 256 color distance coded image

Lidar Customers

  • Pathfinder Systems, Inc.
  • US Army
Catadioptric Long Range


Equinox has initiated the Safe, Autonomous Intelligent Landed Sample Return (SAILSaR) project.

Equinox Interscience, Inc. has assembled a core group of talented individuals and companies with plans to produce a new generation of Autonomous Planetary Landing Craft, Rovers, and Sample Return Vehicles. Their purpose is to deliver scientific instrumentation where needed safely, even in rugged terrain.

The landers will provide power, control, and data handling for science users, and will ultimately return samples off of the surface. Equinox also offers instrument design, development and integration services for the science investigators.

Companies/institutions contributing to the effort to date include Equinox Interscience in the leading role, along with ITN Energy Systems, Global Solar, Blueline Engineering, Environmental Aeroscience Corporation, Aeroventions Corp. and Performance Software Associates.


"Our flight systems will be applicable to missions to the moon, Mars, asteroids, Europa, and other solar system destinations," said Dan Scheld, Vice President of Engineering. The Equinox craft will feature hazard avoidance landing technology to increase mission assurance. The initial development program has been identified as the Safe, Autonomous, Intelligent Landed Sample Return program, or SAILSaR. Prototype landers will be dropped by balloon and C130 aircraft into rugged terrain in Utah, the Arctic and other specially selected Mars analog environments.

This Slide Show presents additional technical details of the SAILSaR design concept. Watch this web site for further updates.



Mother Goose Flying Wing
Mother Goose Flying Wing Over Mars

The first major project of the Equinox Interscience, Inc. Autonomous Planetary Project has been to develop a flight system concept in response to the NASA request for mission concepts for the Mars Scout program. Equinox serves as the lead technical organization with Dr. P. J. Boston, P.I. for the Mother Goose Mission Proposal.

Jay Fullinwider with mockup of 21 foot glider.

Equinox, Aeroventions Corp. and Performance Software Associates Inc., continue to pursue development of the Mars Glider concept. A flight demonstration of the second in a series of subscale models with 8-foot wing span was performed on June 1, 2002. The third subscale model with a 12-foot wingspan was completed and tested October 2002. Work is now proceeding on a 4th model with a 21-foot wing span with first flight tests planned for August 2003.

An article highlighting our Mars Glider project appeared June 12, 2002 on space.com. See
SPACE.COM article about Mars Glider
Here is a series of photos showing the Evolution of Mother Goose Mars Glider concept.
Glider Movie: (AVI 1.7mb), (Quicktime, MOV 2.2mb)

The Mother Goose Mission Concept was presented at the Mars Society Conference, Aug 10, 2002:

    Presentation: (PowerPoint 15.6mb)
    Glider Movie 2: (Quicktime 22mb), (Quicktime 50.5mb)

Other product lines and special telescope projects:



Missile Tracking/Laser Illuminator Telescope


The Space Based Laser Fire Control Testbed

  • Acquires, tracks and illuminates missiles
  • 36-cm cassegrain optics
  • Surrurier truss
  • 2-axis gimbal
  • Direct drive DC torque motors
  • Nd: YAG &HeNe lasers
  • IR acquisition camera
  • CCD scoring camera
  • Illuminator beam point ahead
  • Risley prism point ahead mechanism
  • Track rates up to 10 deg/s
  • Acceleration rates up to 90 deg/s

SBLFC Customers

  • Lockheed Martin
  • BMDO
  • USAF


Twin Refractor Telescope The Luyten Observatory Twin Refractor

  • Main Instrument 36-cm, F/10.0 apochromat
  • Guide Telescope 25-cm, F/13.5 achromat
  • 20-cm, F/5.0 astrograph
  • Extended polar axis astrographic equatorial mount
  • Roller drives: 1.1-m and 80-cm final drive wheels
  • Analog and digital setting circles
  • Total mass 3250-Kg, Moving Mass 1900-Kg

Luyten Observatory customers
  • Equinox demonstration and test facility


The University of Denver (DU)
Student Astronomy Lab (SAL) Project

SAL Customers

DU Observatory Projects

Equinox is under contract to provide services to DU observatories



Digital Imaging Panoramic Sensor (DIPS)

  • 360 degree panoramic azimuth coverage
  • Real time (5-30fps) operation
  • Color imaging
  • Rugged construction for mobile use

Dips Customers

  • Proposed to Pathfinder Systems, Inc.


  • Mars Raptor Recon System (MRRS)
  • Hummingbird/Discovery




See our site for updates



The Mineral Identification and Composition Analyzer (MICA) will demonstrate the feasibility of a miniaturized tool for in-situ X-Ray Diffraction (XRD), X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), and optical imaging on unprepared samples.
Mineral Identification and
Composition Analyzer (MICA)
MICA will automatically perform these non-destructive analyses to quickly determine the geological nature of samples, image the crystalline structure and appearance, and measure the elemental content. MICA data will be useful for analysis of regolith and rocks encountered during exploration of an extraterrestrial surface, and selection of unique and interesting samples for return to Earth. MICA requires no sample acquisition or preparation; only that the sample be in contact with the instrument. The planned activities include a three-year project to design, develop, fabricate, and test a brassboard MICA instrument, ready for simulated Mars rover tests.

MICA has been selected for development under NASA's Mars Instrument Development Project (MIDP).

MICA Home Page



There have been recent discoveries and characterizations of dense, microbial mats up to several centimeters thick that line the narrow and twisting interior rock architecture of highly active hydrogen-sulfide and carbon monoxide emitting springs located in a carbonate cave (Cueva de Villa Luz) in Tabasco, Mexico. Within the lava tube caves, the best chance for discovery of life processes in hostile environments is in these water fillled winding rock "micropassages".

Speleoscope Instrument Head

Locating and cataloging similar features on Mars would be of value in the search for water, the search for signs of life, and in helping to determine past climatic conditions on Mars. Many of the critical questions regarding the environment, potential for water, potential for life (past/present), etc. are not currently accessible to study because we simply cannot reach in for in-situ sensing and imaging and we cannot retrieve samples. SPELEOSCOPE addresses this need with a flexible, threadable, sterilized thin probe. Mounted to a Rover or Rover Arm, the probe in its simplest incarnation would be fitted with an imager, gas sensors, and an ion selective microelectrode protected by an abrasion barrier. More elaborate versions will include the ability to aseptically "microsample" the mineralogical and biological material that may be present.

A project is proposed by Equinox Interscience Inc (EI) teamed with Dr. Penelope Boston as PI to design, build, and test an instrument for use in earth caves that will provide valuable information about living forms in non-typical environments, generally considered hostile to life, a goal of the

Astrobiology program. The proposed instrument will specifically address the issue of accessing and making measurements in these aqueous micropassages in earth caves with the goal of later modifying the instrument for non-aqueous earth micropassages and for Mars.

SPELEOSCOPE is a candidate for NASAs Astrobiology Science & Technology Instrument Development Program (ASTID).






Feel Free to contact us to discuss your system and application needs.