Sandia National Laboratories
Aerial Cable Site
Burn Site
Drop Tower
Mechanical Shock

Mobile Laser Tracker

Rocket Sled Track
Thermal Test Complex
Water Impact
Visitor Information


Sandia National Laboratories' Aerial Cable Facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, provides a unique capability to precisely simulate a wide variety of environments in a highly instrumented test arena.



Click here to view a larger version of the image.

Primary among these environments are drop and high-velocity impact testing, suspension of large items hundreds of feet above the ground, and simulated free flight along an aerial cable.

The facility has four primary cable systems that span two ridges over a mountain canyon. Each cable is approximately 5,000 feet long and has endpoint anchors about 1,000 feet above the valley floor.
At the center of each cable span is a flat test arena about 300 feet in diameter. The Aerial Cable Facility includes secluded, secure, open spaces in which to conduct a variety of tests.

Drop and Pulldown

Each cable can be raised and lowered to lift items to varying positions and orientations above the ground. Items as heavy as 67,000 pounds can be lifted and dropped from about 100 feet, while lighter items can be raised to almost 700 feet.
The facility can perform impact testing that offers:

  • High or low velocity
  • Guided drop testing
  • Hard or soft targets
  • Penetration events


Get the Flash Player to see this player.


Get the Flash Player to see this player.


Click here to view larger version of image.
The facility can also be configured to accommodate a wide variety of additional testing scenarios, including artillery firing and scoring, countermeasures and warning systems evaluation, and explosives testing. A 200- by 225-foot net can provide a soft-catch method for items dropped from altitudes.

Impact testing can include guided drops, rocket-assisted pulldowns, or free falls. Typical targets include a 2-million-pound 24-by-14 foot unyielding steel target, soil, concrete, water, ice, and simulated terrain (Martian, lunar, mountain, etc.).

The Aerial Cable Facility can also test

  • Items containing radioactive materials
  • Up to 1,000 pounds of high explosives
  • Items classified to Top Secret

The facility can conduct rocket-assisted impact tests with impact speeds up to 1,100 feet per second. Target impact angles of 30 to 90 degrees can be achieved and the angle of attack can be tightly controlled and measured.

Trolley and Simulated Free Flight

A cable car or trolley can be rolled or rocket-propelled on a cable to flight velocity to serve as a test target (simulated aircraft for missile systems) or test platform (aircraft onboard systems). Sandia engineers can design and build trolleys to meet specific customer needs or customer-furnished hardware may be integrated for use as a cable car. Proven technology exists for vehicles and velocities in excess of 300 knots.
Telemetry control and monitoring of the vehicle and onboard systems is available. Test windows may vary between 10 seconds and one minute depending on the vehicle velocity.


The Aerial Cable Facility has exceptional instrumentation capabilities. The facility uses photometrics, laser trackers, telemetry, and hardwire systems to gather data from a variety of instruments and transducers. Time-space-position information (TSPI) can be acquired at up to a 1-KHz rate, with one-foot accuracy. Transducer data may be sampled at up to 1.25 MHz.

Click here to view larger version of image.

High-speed video and film cameras running up to 40,000+ frames per second are also available. These capabilities can meet a wide variety of customer needs for a single test or a series of test and evaluation scenarios.

Click here to view larger version of the image.

Additional Information

The Aerial Cable Facility is close to Sandia's other testing sites and maintains a variety of data/instrumentation equipment. For shipping and travel purposes, the site is conveniently located near Albuquerque International Airport and two interstate highways. Sandia can perform the complete test from theoretical model development to execution and data analysis.

Top of Page


Scott Rose
(505) 284-5940

Steven Samuels
(505) 284-3371