Sandia National Laboratories' roots lie in World War II's Manhattan Project, which built the world's first atomic bombs.
Our history reflects the changing national security needs of postwar America. Although Sandia originated as a single-mission engineering organization for nonnuclear components of nuclear weapons, today it is a multiprogram laboratory engaging in research supporting a broad spectrum national security issues.
Sandia began in 1945 as Z Division, the ordnance design, testing, and assembly arm of Los Alamos National Laboratory. It became Sandia Laboratory in 1948 and, in 1949, Sandia Corporation was established as a Western Electric company to manage the laboratory. A second site was opened in California's Livermore Valley in 1956. More than two decades later, in 1979, Congress made Sandia a Department of Energy national laboratory. Sandia Corporation became a wholly owned subsidiary of Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin Corporation) in 1993.
- 1949 Responsible for weapon surveillance activities at the nation's nuclear weapon storage sites until 1960, when the introduction of sealed-pit weapons reduced the need for constant weapon maintenance. Sandia retains its stockpile surveillance responsibilities.
- 1950 Innovations in technologies to achieve the wooden bomb concept (a weapon that could sit ready in the stockpile for years with little maintenance).
- 1956 New laboratory opened in Livermore, California.
- 1958 Shock-resistant components and parachute systems made possible the safe laydown delivery of nuclear bombs.
- 1960 Tonopah Test Range replaced the Salton Sea Test Base as the permanent range for field testing components and weapon designs.
- 1960 The science of terradynamics emerged from earth-penetrator design efforts.
- 1960 The Permissive Action Link was introduced to prevent unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.
- 1960 Sandia's Laminar Flow Clean Room was the first in a long line of weapons spin-offs.
- 1962 The Strypi rocket was developed for the high-altitude Dominic nuclear test series.
- 1962 The B61 design program to create a flexible lightweight tactical thermonuclear weapon began. Its most recent modification, the B61-11, was introduced in 1997.
- 1962 Work began on an independently targeted warhead fully integrated with its reentry vehicle. The Navy subsequently contracted with Sandia for the Mark 3 reentry body for the Poseidon Missile.
- 1963 The Vela satellites, with Sandia-designed optical sensors as well as data processing, logic, and power subsystems, were launched to detect nuclear detonations.
- 1966 Sandians helped locate the bomb lost in an aircraft collision over Palomares, Spain. This and other accidents prompted closer scrutiny of nuclear weapon safety; Sandia established an independent safety group to assess weapon designs.
- 1970 Designed the Safe Secure Trailer for transporting nuclear weapons. In succeeding years, Sandia also designed and tested accident resistant containers for nuclear materials.
- 1972 Began an ongoing series of training opportunities for agencies concerned with physical security and developed more formidable barriers to protect crucial sites. Sandia is still involved with work related to physical security — it recently introduced an improved airport security portal and a school physical safety design.
- 1973 Responding to the energy crisis, Sandia carried out research on solar and wind technology, photovoltaics, enhanced fossil fuels recovery, and fusion development.
- 1974 Named the technical advisor on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, beginning a long series of scientific studies and site analyses. The first barrels of transuranic waste were placed into the facility in 1999.
- 1981 The Combustion Research Facility opened at Sandia/CA. The facility is open to researchers from around the world.
- 1983 Contributed to the assessment of countermeasures and vulnerability of the Strategic Defense Initiative.
- 1983 Published research on strained-layer superlattices, a new class of materials that allow scientists to tailor semiconductors to specific functions.
- 1984 Factored the 69-digit Mersenne number as part of the ongoing "black hat" effort to test and challenge weapon security codes.
- 1990 Sandia-advanced synthetic aperture radar (SAR) was used in Desert Storm. Capable of seeing through cloud cover, SAR was first studied at Sandia in 1986.
- 1991 Congress passed the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act, opening the way for collaboration among US and former Soviet weapon labs.
- 1993 The mission assignment for neutron generator production was given to Sandia.
- 1994 The Cooperative Monitoring Center opened. The Center hosts arms control specialists from around the world, informing them about available treaty-monitoring technologies used to build confidence among neighboring nations.
- 1995 Sandia and Intel agreed to pursue the development of a computer ten times faster than any existing at that time, resulting in a series of computer speed records. In 1998, Intel gave Sandia a no-fee license for its Pentium processor design, allowing the Laboratories to develop radiation-hardened microprocessors for space and defense purposes.
- 1997 NASA's Pathfinder space probe arrived on Mars, its landing cushioned by airbags designed by a Sandia/Jet Propulsion Laboratory team.
- 1998 The Z machine briefly achieved an output of 290 trillion watts — about 80 times the entire world's output of electricity.
- 1999 Sandia was involved in a profusion of projects ranging from training bees to find landmines to developing ever-smaller locking and sensing devices. Many technical breakthroughs were achieved through collaboration with other organizations.
- 2000 Sandia expanded its work in microelectromechanical (MEMS) technology research, pushing ever-smaller chip features to the atomic scale.
- 2001 Sandia-developed decontamination foam used to neutralize anthrax in buildings on Capitol Hill.
- 2002 The Rapid Syndrome Validation Project (RSVP), a joint Sandia and New Mexico Department of Health system to quickly detect disease outbreaks, was deployed in southern New Mexico.
- 2003 Researchers in the Thermal Protection Materials Program created ultra-high-temperature ceramics (UHTCs) in Sandia's Advanced Materials Laboratory. The new lightweight material can withstand temperatures up to 2000ºC and is of potential use on hypersonic vehicles, such as the space shuttle.
- 2004 Introduced the Sandia Gauntlets shoulder-length Kevlar gauntlets with carbon-composite forearm and upper arm protective inserts as a direct response to U.S. military needs in Iraq. Also in 2004, the Distributed Information Systems Laboratory (DISL) was dedicated at Sandia/CA; the facility will provide a test-bed for the research, development, and prototyping of new advanced technologies before they're deployed throughout the nuclear weapons complex.
- 2005 Sandia/Los Alamos joint Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) facility completed. BiNational Sustainability Laboratory (BNSL) opened in Santa Teresa, NM; sponsored by the U.S., Mexico, and State of New Mexico, the BNSL supports collaborative technical efforts.
- 2006 Sandia/University of New Mexico experiments involving single-cell organisms in nanostructures placed on the International Space Station. Researchers are investigating the manner in which living cells placed in nanostructures apparently direct the creation of nanocompartments.
- 2007 New Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) facilities dedicated. Largest construction project in Sandia's history, MESA combines Sandia's expertise in weapon design, fast computing, and microsystems into an advanced research environment.
- 2007 Researchers at the Sandia/Los Alamos joint Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) witnessed the birth of carbon-linked nanostructures known as buckyballs, advancing the understanding of these strong structures and moving toward their practical use.
- 2008 Refurbished Z machine returned to operation, achieving 26 million amperes for a few billionths of a second. Part of Sandia's ongoing pulsed power research effort, the Z machine supports both the simulation of nuclear weapons effects and the pursuit of fusion for energy.
- 2008 Sandia's Red Storm high-performance computer used to help the U.S. military plan and carry out the successful interception of a defective spy satellite that threatened to fall to Earth. Hundreds of impact calculations used with advanced modeling and simulation tools determined the best way to ensure that the car-sized satellite — traveling at 17,000 miles per hour 153 miles above the Earth — was destroyed with a single missile shot.
- 2008 Sandians participated in a global team that for the first time detected and tracked an asteroid heading toward Earth and predicted its time and place of impact. While the small asteroid posed no danger, the ability to provide early warning could be critical for larger asteroids, which strike the Earth a few times a century.
- 2009 Joint Sandia-General Motors study illustrated the feasibility of replacing nearly one third of gasoline use with plant and forestry waste and dedicated energy crops by 2030.
- 2010 Z Machine researchers deployed a new x-ray imaging capability to obtain pictures of the magneto-Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities that impede the successful production of successful stable nuclear fusion to generate electrical power. This was another step on the path to achieving the breakeven point, when Z's energy output equals the energy input.
- 2010 Ion Beam Laboratory (IBL) opened to extend Sandia's materials analysis capability. IBL's six accelerators can generate ions of every element in nature from one electron volt to 400 million electron volts. Research includes microscopic diagnostics of the radiation sensitivity of integrated circuits, simulation of the effects of the enormous fluxes of neutrons associated with nuclear detonations to provide data that will help protect U.S. electronics against such an occurrence, and assistance with calibrations and certifications for the nuclear stockpile.
- 2011 Researchers developed a super-resolution microscopy technique that reveals previously unseen details of the cell membrane. Initially used to address questions about how and why a cell's defenses fail against some invaders, such as plague, while successfully fending off others, such as E.coli, the technique may lead to new diagnostic, prevention, and treatment techniques.
- 2011 Sandia, Texas Tech University, and Group NIRE established a three-way research agreement to operate a wind energy test facility at Texas Tech. Researchers pursue experimental work in turbine-to-turbine interactions, evaluate innovative rotor technologies, and investigate areas such as aeroacoustics, aeroelasticity, and structural health monitoring using embedded sensor systems.
- 2011 Sandia and Cray form Supercomputing Institute for Learning and Knowledge Systems to tackle big data issues.
- 2011 University of New Mexico and Sandia agreement deepens commitment to joint collaboration and delivery of science-based benefits to the community and nation.
- 2012 Joint Sandia-UK team announced potentially revolutionary effects of Criegee biradicals.
- 2012 Cyber Engineering Research Institute (CERI) dedicated; it was created to coordinate with industry and universities on cyber security issues and solutions.
- 2012 Sandia supported Pantex’s completion of B53 nuclear weapon disassembly.