By Michael Padilla

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sandia on target for first Mk21 Fuze flight test

Sandia’s Mk21 Fuze Program is on track to deliver upcoming key program milestones, including launching flight test unit 1 (FTU1), finalizing the prototype design review, and conducting the preliminary Department of Defense independent peer review.

Preparing for the first flight test

According to Elaine Yang, who oversees the systems work for Sandia, the Mk21 Fuze team is excited to execute the program’s first flight test, scheduled for later this year.

 “The objective is to show functional compatibility between the replacement arming and fuzing assembly, reentry vehicle, and Minuteman III missile in an operational flight in the Pacific,” says Elaine. She notes that the Mk21 Fuze Systems team in California has been focusing on designing, fabricating, and testing the vehicle to ensure its readiness for flight.

Testing the ground test unit

The ground test unit (GTU1) was built to be almost identical to FTU1. GTU1 was then subjected to rigorous mechanical and electrical testing. The mechanical tests, across transportation, preflight, powered flight, and reentry environments, were conducted at Sandia/California facilities managed by Larry Carrillo.

Light-Initiated High Explosive test shot of the Mk21 reentry vehicle

Light-Initiated High Explosive test shot of the Mk21 reentry vehicle at Sandia/New Mexico.

Once the mechanical-testing phase ended, the vehicle was brought to Boeing for extensive electrical testing.

These electrical tests, which took place in the integrated test bed with Minuteman III missile system hardware in collaboration with Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the U.S. Air Force, were a joint effort among Sandia, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and the US Air Force.

 “The results of all these tests indicate that the design is ready for flight,” Elaine says, adding that the team is currently building and assembling the flight test vehicle.

A Herculean cross-site team effort

Elaine says she believes the success of this project can be attributed to the teamwork and dedication of many Sandians, both in California and New Mexico. She explains, “This work is a large, multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort, where everyone has just one piece of the puzzle.” 

The Mk21 Fuze Systems core team appreciates all of the crucial contributions and support from many other organizations across the sites, including Telemetry, Health and Safety Plans, Machine Shop, Test Assembly Group, Environmental Test, Design Definition, Mechanics of Materials, Materials Chemistry, H-Gear, Purchasing, Shipping, Analysis, W87 Systems, Safety, Quality, and the Advanced & Exploratory group.

 “The extraordinary quality of the teams has allowed us to keep this program on time, while meeting customer needs,” Elaine says. “With a program so large, setbacks are inevitable. I have been so impressed by the team’s resilience, positive attitude, and motivation. They have dealt with setbacks by understanding lessons learned and focusing on moving forward.”