Saturn and HERMES III Accelerators

Saturn and HERMES III Accelerators


The Saturn accelerator is a modular, high-power, variable-spectrum, x-ray simulation source. Saturn can be operated with two different bremsstrahlung diodes or any one of several plasma radiation sources. The diodes and sources provide x-ray radiation environments with enhanced simulation fidelity based on fast rise time, short pulse duration, and tailored spectral content. Saturn’s major function has been to produce x-rays to test the effectiveness of the countermeasures that are used to protect electronics and other materials against x-ray radiation from nuclear weapons.

The linear Hermes pulsed power machine — the most powerful gamma ray producer in the world — is serviced for its next shot by technicians. Because of Sandia's nuclear responsibilities, Hermes and Saturn are kept in "warm standby mode" for immediate testing of components

Hermes III

The High-Energy Radiation Megavolt Electron Source (HERMES) III accelerator is the world’s most powerful gamma simulator, primarily used to demonstrate the effects of gamma-ray radiation. HERMES III has both indoor and outdoor test cells, and is used predominantly for simulating the effects of prompt radiation from a nuclear burst on electronics and complete military systems. This accelerator can produce eight shots per day, four days a week.

A significant milestone was reached on July 14, 2015, when HERMES III fired its 10,000th shot.  Read more about this event here.

The accelerators create X-ray and gamma ray environments powerful enough to simulate certain conditions created by nuclear weapons, allowing researchers to conduct radiation-effects testing in a laboratory setting.

Saturn and HERMES III have surpassed their projected milestones at Sandia.  Read more about their impressive capabilities in this SNL News Release article, entitled "Big Machines: two radiation generators mark major milestones in helping protect the U.S."

In addition, Sandia was recognized by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to receive a Best in Class Sustainability Award for improvements in the labs’ Saturn and HERMES III pulsed power facilities. The NNSA has awarded Sustainability Awards for more than a decade.  These awards recognize effective programs and projects that increase energy, water and fleet efficiency and reduce greenhouse gases, pollution and waste.  Sandia was recognized for excellence in maintaining sustainable greenhouse gas management.