Future spaceborne interferometric arrays must meet stringent optical performance and tolerance requirements while exhibiting modularity and acceptable manufacture and integration cost levels. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Adaptive Reconnaissance Golay-3 Optical Satellite (ARGOS) is a wide-angle Fizeau interferometer spacecraft testbed designed to address these research challenges. Designing a space-based stellar interferometer, which requires tight tolerances on pointing and alignment for its apertures, presents unique multidisciplinary challenges in the areas of structural dynamics, controls, and multiaperture phasing active optics. In meeting these challenges, emphasis is placed on modularity in spacecraft subsystems and optics as a means of enabling expandability and upgradeability. A rigorous theory of beam-combining errors for sparse optical arrays is derived and flown down to the design of various subsystems. A detailed elaboration on the optics system and control system is presented based on the performance requirements and beam-combining error tolerances. The space environment is simulated by floating ARGOS on a frictionless air-bearing that enables it to track both fast and slow moving targets. © 2004 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.