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' Water Impact Facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, provides a controlled environment for high-velocity water impact testing and underwater testing.

The 300-foot drop tower stands next to a 120-foot-wide by 188-foot-long by 50-foot-deep pool. Total depth of 80 feet for underwater testing is provided via a 6-foot-diameter, 30-foot-long pipe at the bottom of the pool.

Objects weighing up to 3,000 pounds can be subjected to free-fall drops or rocket-assisted pulldowns from angles of 30 to 90 degrees.

Gas guns can be used to launch scale models into the pool.

Tests are designed to simulate and evaluate special scenarios to aid in such activities as prototype development or computer modeling code development or validation.

The Water Impact Facility has exceptional instrumentation capabilities. The facility uses photometrics (underwater and surface cameras), telemetry, hardwiring, and onboard memory modules to gather data from a variety of transducers.

These capabilities can meet a broad range of customer needs for a single test or a series of testing and evaluation scenarios.


In the past, this unique facility has been used to conduct underwater detonation and to test ice penetrators, torpedoes, pressure vessels, and shipping containers.
Today, the facility can also test

  • Full-scale and scale-model items
  • Items containing radioactive materials
  • Items containing high explosives for water impacts
  • Up to 1 pound of C4 for underwater detonation
  • Items classified to Top Secret

Water Impact Testing

The hoisting system consists of a main load cable and a movable trolley used to lift test items to the desired height. Test items can be hoisted to and released from a maximum of 290 feet. Full-size test items can be impacted into the water at free-fall velocity, or they can be accelerated to higher velocities using a rocket pulldown technique. Water impact angles of 30 to 90 degrees can be achieved with the pulldown technique. An underwater net system is used to ensure a soft catch and recovery.

Our divers have extensive experience and are trained and certified to perform any type of rigging, setup, or recovery—either at the Water Impact Facility or elsewhere.

Additional Information

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

The Water Impact Facility can be configured to test a variety of scenarios.

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Luis A. Abeyta
(505) 845-3017

Michael F. Hessheimer
(505) 844-6229