Protecting the nation

Sandia lasers test and calibrate sensors on U.S. satellites

Sandia's scientists and engineers have a significant impact on national security and continually deliver results, including these noteworthy successes from fiscal year 2012:

AHW Launch

Advanced Hypersonic Weapon test flight

Sandia conducted a highly successful first test flight of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) concept for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Designed to fly within the earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speed and long range, the first-of-its-kind glide vehicle launched from Sandia’s Kauai Test Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, using a three-stage booster system developed at Sandia. The hypersonic glide vehicle, which was also designed and developed by Sandia, successfully flew at hypersonic speed to the planned impact location at the Reagan Test Site, U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll. The test flight allowed researchers to collect data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance for long-range atmospheric flight with emphasis on aerodynamics; navigation, guidance and control; and thermal protection technologies.

The Department of Defense is using AHW to develop and demonstrate technologies for Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS), which would allow the military to deliver a conventional weapon strike anywhere in the world within one hour.

Additional areas of accomplishment include:

  • Nuclear Weapons Engineering


    The B61-12 program successfully transitioned into Phase 6.3, Full Scale Engineering Development. The team demonstrated leadership in cost management as evidenced through the on-schedule submittal of the B61-12 Weapon Design and Cost Report (WDCR) refined estimate, realizing a significant life-of-program cost reduction relative to earlier estimates. The team also supported a DoD Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation (CAPE) team in its review of the B61-12 cost and schedule. The successful completion of these activities led to Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC) program authorization and a fully funded program in FY13.


    NUWAIX-12, a full-field accident exercise, was conducted May 7-9, 2012. In the exercise scenario, a weather related accident during a routine B-52 aircraft generation exercise resulted in a Broken Arrow (nuclear weapon accident) and a multi-agency response. Agencies responding included DOE/NNSA nuclear emergency response assets, DoD, the FBI, and other local, state, and federal agencies. Sandia provided numerous responders and controllers for Weapon Recovery and Health and Safety activities at both the ARG home team and the field location.

  • Product Realization

    Picture of Citrus

    The Neutron Generator Citrus web-based deployment is a valuable knowledge management solution. The NG Enterprise uses many data repositories including shared drives and corporate systems such as EIMS, DDM, and EA Web. Citrus, a Sandia R&D text analysis tool, analyzes various file types to build an index that is used to find relevant documents. Two indices containing more than 1.4 million files were created, and a web-based front end was developed to search the indices and view results. Citrus is approved for unclassified and classified use.

  • Remote Sensing

    Source Physics Experiment

    Precisely at noon Mountain time on July 2 (12:00:00.448), NNSA detonated a chemical explosive equivalent to 2,200 pounds of TNT in a contained, confined environment 150 feet below ground at the Nevada National Security Site. The Source Physics Experiment #3 (see above) was the third in a series of seven underground, fully coupled, high-explosive field tests. The series is a long-term, NNSA R&D campaign designed to improve arms control and nonproliferation treaty verification.

    National Data Center

    To support the US government nuclear test treaty monitoring mission, the US National Data Center system collects and analyzes data from networks of seismic, infrasonic, and hydroacoustic sensors to detect and define explosions within the Earth or at low altitudes. In January 2012, the Air Force Technical Applications Center selected Sandia to design a modern, architecture-centric approach using risk reduction as the primary driver. Sandia’s approach will be demonstration based to provide early investigation and resolution of high-risk technical and performance issues.

    Synthetic Aperture Radars

    Sandia-developed Synthetic Aperture Radars are fielded on unmanned aerial vehicles to locate and help defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs). This program, a partnership between Sandia, NAVAIR, JHU-APL, and ERDC, is currently the most successful JIEDDO-sponsored, airborne IED detection system in Afghanistan. Due to the program’s success, the military is requesting additional units and the Deputy Secretary of Defense has directed the capability be transferred to the Army and started the process to potentially transition the capability as a part of a Program of Record.

    Global Burst Detector

    Under the sponsorship of NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation R&D, Sandia and Los Alamos design, develop and deliver Global Burst Detector payloads for launch on the USAF’s Global Positioning System satellites. The current series, GPS IIF, has 12 satellites to be launched over the next six years. On Oct. 4, 2012, the third satellite of the IIF series was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The Sandia/Los Alamos initialization team successfully completed all Early-On-Orbit testing.

    Integrated Correlation and Display System

    The next-generation Integrated Correlation and Display System, a satellite ground system for processing nuclear detonation detection data, has been delivered to the Air Force. The system utilizes new phased array antenna, spread spectrum receivers, multi-node network computing, and 1.5 million lines of custom software to fuse data from sensor payloads on more than 30 different satellites to national authorities. The delivery culminates a six-year effort by a team of more than 100 people. During the development the team also achieved AS9100C Quality certification.


    A team of nanomaterials researchers at Sandia has developed a new technique for radiation detection that could make radiation detection in cargo and baggage more effective and less costly for homeland security personnel. Spectral Shape Discrimination takes advantage of a new class of nanoporous materials known as metal-organic frameworks, ideal because they have tailorable nanoporosity and ultrahigh surface areas. An exciting video has been created outlining the latest research.

  • Computing & Information Sciences


    The AQUARIUS Grand Challenge LDRD team has invented and executed world-first benchmark tests for quantum behavior on its silicon-based one-qubit adiabatic quantum computer. The tests indicate that the device’s observed operation is more attributable to decoherence assistance than “adiabatic” quantum effects. As a byproduct, the test measures important energy-dependent relaxation times for silicon qubits. Future devices from our atomic-precision lithography fab seek to demonstrate pure adiabatic quantum behavior. That decoherence assists, rather than corrupts, emboldens theoretical predictions of the adiabatic architecture’s robustness to noise.

    Cyber Patterns

    Cyber researchers developed a new suite of tools to enhance cybersecurity analysts’ ability to identify suspicious visitor patterns to websites — identifying possible reconnaissance in preparation for a social engineering attack. Tools include the following capabilities: a website visualization technique allowing visits to be easily compared to heuristic patterns; an automated analysis separating human-driven browser traffic from automated crawler traffic based on their visit patterns. This work could have a profound impact on the analyst’s job — changing from reactive response to proactive defense.


    Sandia released the Coopr software library, which provides a rich environment for formulating and analyzing optimization models. Coopr is used at Sandia and externally to solve complex real-world problems, including hydraulic reservoir management, energy economic modeling, forestry planning, electric power generation expansion, nuclear weapons enterprise planning, and design of contamination warning systems. Coopr is distributed freely, and it has many users (approximately 4,000 downloads during FY12). Additionally, Coopr is being used in undergraduate and graduate classrooms: UC Davis, USC, University of Texas, George Washington University, and Rose Hulman.


    The Cyber Operations Research and Network Analysis project, (CORONA), was selected as the best cyber modeling/simulation project at the 7th Annual Intelligence Community Tech Expo. It was also recognized as one of the intelligence community's Top 12 technology efforts. CORONA provides a scalable framework environment by constructing a diverse foundation of Live Virtual Constructive elements. CORONA is a joint project with DIA/Missile & Space Intelligence Center, and US Air Force’s 688th Information Operations Wing, with funding through the DoD Modeling and Simulation Coordination Office.

  • Military Programs

    Advanced Hypersonic Weapon

    AHW Flight 1A: On Nov. 17, 2011, Sandia’s Integrated Military Systems Program conducted the first test flight of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) , which was launched from Sandia’s Kauai Test Facility. A Sandia-designed booster system launched the Sandia AHW glide vehicle and successfully deployed it on the desired flight trajectory. The test demonstrated the viability of the boost-glide approach to long-range atmospheric flight and data collection on a variety of advanced technology subsystems. Highly successful, the AHW was selected as a Lockheed Martin NOVA award winner.

    Key Data Processor

    The Sandia-designed Key Data Processor (KDP) cryptographic engine mandated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for use in all military Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers reached the 1,000,000-unit milestone in May 2012. Sandia worked with internal and external organizations to develop the next-generation system-on-chip, National Security Agency-certified architecture enabling receiver manufacturers to securely integrate the KDP-III/IV into their custom application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) realizing cost, size, and power reductions necessary for insertion into constrained applications including precision guided munitions and artillery shells.

    Military Operations Research Society

    The Military Operations Research Society (MORS) has awarded the Integrated Military Systems’ Capability Portfolio Analysis Tool (CPAT) team with the national 2012 Richard H. Barchi Prize for the paper titled “Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS) Modernization Analysis Tool.” The submission was selected for its substantive nature, appropriateness to operations research/systems analysis, originality, and contribution to the community of interest. The paper outlines CPAT’s ability to execute a comprehensive assessment of PEO GCS modernization initiatives and develop a multiagency analytical team to tackle this arduous task.

    Kauai Test Facility

    The Kauai Test Facility (KTF) celebrated 50 years of service in June 2012. KTF was established in 1962 to support the Atomic Energy Commission, providing key development, test, and evaluation capabilities that to this day continue in support of a broader national security mission. KTF has delivered mission success on hundreds of launches while maintaining an outstanding record of safety, security, and reliability. The programs and work performed at KTF have provided Sandia with the opportunity to support the complete technical project lifecycle. KTF is a critical asset to Sandia as the mission continues to diversify in direct support of emerging national security objectives.

  • Homeland Security

    Explosive Destruction System

    Sandia completed fabrication and chemical agent testing of the Phase II Pilot Explosive Destruction System (EDS). Major improvements, including use of Sandia-developed sensor technologies, have cut the operating cycle in half, improved worker safety, and accommodated more munitions. The improvements were demonstrated in mustard agent tests at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The EDS is the nation’s primary tool for destroying recovered chemical munitions. These improvements provide significantly greater capacity needed to remediate chemical munitions burial sites that exist in most states.

  • Microelectronics & Microsystems

    Single-chip heterogeneous integration

    Sandia demonstrated single-chip heterogeneous integration using flip-chip die attach and substrate removal to integrate GaAs-based integrated circuits onto non-native substrates. The integrated circuits showed electrical properties equivalent to lattice matched circuits, >10 percent reduction in interconnect capacitance, and >100X reduction in test circuit crosstalk. This important advance provides an integration environment that enables smaller, lower power, higher reliability mixed-technology integrated circuits and microsystems in which CMOS technologies perform data processing and memory, and compound semiconductors provide optoelectronic, radio frequency, and driver capability.

  • Engineering Sciences

    Constitutive Models

    New constitutive models have been developed and validated to improve our ability to model complex materials of importance in NW and DSA needs, especially in the area of encapsulation and joints. A coupled chemical-thermal-mechanical constitutive model has been developed for polymer reaction, solidification, and curing. In addition, new unified creep plasticity constitutive models have been developed for foams, solders, and braze alloys. These models allow us to make improved physics-based assessments of mechanical behavior to support design, qualification, and testing of components.