Sandia National Laboratories

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Sandia National Laboratories
Sandia National Laboratories logo.svg
Research typeNational security, nuclear science
Budget US$3.6 billion [1]
Director James S. Peery (January 1, 2020–) [2]
Stephen Younger [3] (May 2017–December 2019)
Staff 11,500 [4]
Students 830 [4]
Location Albuquerque, New Mexico; Livermore, California.
Campus 8,699 acres (35.20 km2)
Named after
Sandia Mountains in the Albuquerque metropolitan area
Operating agency
National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, under the direction of Honeywell International (since May 1, 2017)

The Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) is one of three National Nuclear Security Administration research and development laboratories in the United States, managed and operated by the National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia (a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International). Their primary mission is to develop, engineer, and test the non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons and high technology. Headquartered on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it also has a campus in Livermore, California, next to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and a test facility in Waimea, Kauai, Hawaii. [5]


It is Sandia's mission to maintain the reliability and surety of nuclear weapon systems, conduct research and development in arms control and nonproliferation technologies, and investigate methods for the disposal of the United States' nuclear weapons program's hazardous waste. Other missions include research and development in energy and environmental programs, as well as the surety of critical national infrastructures. In addition, Sandia is home to a wide variety of research including computational biology, mathematics (through its Computer Science Research Institute), materials science, alternative energy, psychology, MEMS, and cognitive science initiatives. Sandia formerly hosted ASCI Red, one of the world's fastest supercomputers until its recent decommission, and now hosts ASCI Red Storm, originally known as Thor's Hammer. Sandia is also home to the Z Machine. The Z Machine is the largest X-ray generator in the world and is designed to test materials in conditions of extreme temperature and pressure. It is operated by Sandia National Laboratories to gather data to aid in computer modeling of nuclear guns. In December 2016, it was announced that National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, under the direction of Honeywell International, would take over the management of Sandia National Laboratories starting on May 1, 2017. [6] [7] [8] [3]

Lab history

One of Sandia's first permanent buildings (Building 800) was completed in 1949 Sandia-Building800-1951.gif
One of Sandia's first permanent buildings (Building 800) was completed in 1949

Sandia National Laboratories' roots go back to World War II and the Manhattan Project. Prior to the United States formally entering the war, the U.S. Army leased land near an Albuquerque, New Mexico airport known as Oxnard Field, to service transient Army and U.S. Navy aircraft. In January 1941 construction began on the Albuquerque Army Air Base, leading to establishment of the Bombardier School-Army Advanced Flying School near the end of the year. Soon thereafter it was renamed Kirtland Field, after early Army military pilot Colonel Roy C. Kirtland, and in mid-1942 the Army acquired Oxnard Field. During the war years facilities were expanded further and Kirtland Field served as a major Army Air Forces training installation.

In the many months leading up to successful detonation of the first atomic bomb, the Trinity test, and delivery of the first airborne atomic weapon, Project Alberta, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Director of Los Alamos Laboratory, and his technical advisor, Hartly Rowe, began looking for a new site convenient to Los Alamos for the continuation of weapons development  especially its non-nuclear aspects. They felt a separate division would be best to perform these functions. Kirtland had fulfilled Los Alamos' transportation needs for both the Trinity and Alberta projects, thus, Oxnard Field was transferred from the jurisdiction of the Army Air Corps to the U.S. Army Service Forces Chief of Engineer District, and thereafter, assigned to the Manhattan Engineer District. In July 1945, the forerunner of Sandia Laboratory, known as "Z" Division, was established at Oxnard Field to handle future weapons development, testing, and bomb assembly for the Manhattan Engineer District. The District-directive calling for establishing a secure area and construction of "Z" Division facilities referred to this as "Sandia Base" , after the nearby Sandia Mountains — apparently the first official recognition of the "Sandia" name.

Lab directors and presidents
James S. PeeryJanuary 2020– [2]
Stephen YoungerMay 2017
–December 2019 [3]
Jill M. HrubyJuly 2015
–May 2017 [9] [10]
Paul HommertJuly 2010
–July 2015 [11] [10]
Thomas HunterApril 2005
–July 2010 [12]
C. Paul Robinson August 1995
–April 2005 [13]
Albert Narath1989–1995 [14]
Irwin WelberFebruary 1986
–March 1989 [15] [16]
George C. DaceyAugust 1981
–January 1986 [15] [17]
Morgan Sparks October 1972
–July 1981 [15] [18]
John A. HornbeckNovember 1966
–September 1972 [15]
Siegmund P. "Monk" SchwartzSeptember 1960
–October 1966 [15]
Julius Molnar October 1958
–August 1960 [15]
James W. McRae September 1953
–September 1958 [15]
Donald A. Quarles March 1952
–August 1953 [15]
George Landry October 1949
–February 1952 [15]

Sandia Laboratory was operated by the University of California until 1949, when President Harry S. Truman asked Western Electric, a subsidiary of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), to assume the operation as an "opportunity to render an exceptional service in the national interest." Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Electric, was formed on October 5, 1949, and, on November 1, 1949, took over management of the Laboratory. [19] The United States Congress designated Sandia Laboratories as a National laboratory in 1979. In October 1993, Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) was managed and operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin. As of May 2017, management of Sandia National Laboratory transitioned to National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International, [6] [7] [8] [3] [20] covering government-owned facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico (SNL/NM); Livermore, California (SNL/CA); Tonopah, Nevada; Shoreview, Minnesota; and Kauai, Hawaii. SNL/NM is headquarters and the largest laboratory, employing more than 6,600 employees, while SNL/CA is a smaller laboratory, with about 850 employees. Tonopah and Kauai are occupied on a "campaign" basis, as test schedules dictate.

Sandia led a project that studied how to decontaminate a subway system in the event of a biological weapons attack (such as anthrax). As of September 2017, the process to decontaminate subways in such an event is "virtually ready to implement," said a lead Sandia engineer. [21]

Sandia's integration with its local community includes a program through the Department of Energy's Tribal Energy program to deliver alternative renewable power to remote Navajo communities, spearheaded by senior engineer Sandra Begay. [22] [23]

On February 13, 2007, a New Mexico State Court found Sandia Corporation liable for $4.7 million in damages for the firing of a former network security analyst, Shawn Carpenter, who had reported to his supervisors that hundreds of military installations and defense contractors' networks were compromised and sensitive information was being stolen  including hundreds of sensitive Lockheed documents on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter project. When his supervisors told him to drop the investigation and do nothing with the information, he went to intelligence officials in the United States Army and later the Federal Bureau of Investigation to address the national security breaches. When Sandia managers discovered his actions months later, they revoked his security clearance and fired him. [24]

In 2014 an investigation determined Sandia Corp. used lab operations funds to pay for lobbying related to the renewal of its $2 billion contract to operate the lab. Sandia Corp. and its parent company, Lockheed Martin, agreed to pay a $4.8 million fine. [25]

Technical areas

A researcher displays a model of the Big Hill cavern field in Texas, part of the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve Sandia national laboratories researcher (46702906002).jpg
A researcher displays a model of the Big Hill cavern field in Texas, part of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve

SNL/NM consists of five technical areas (TA) and several additional test areas. Each TA has its own distinctive operations; however, the operations of some groups at Sandia may span more than one TA, with one part of a team working on a problem from one angle, and another subset of the same team located in a different building or area working with other specialized equipment. A description of each area is given below.

TA-I operations are dedicated primarily to three activities  the design, research, and development of weapon systems; limited production of weapon system components; and energy programs. TA-I facilities include the main library and offices, laboratories, and shops used by administrative and technical staff.

TA-II is a 45-acre (180,000 m2) facility that was established in 1948 for the assembly of chemical high explosive main charges for nuclear weapons and later for production scale assembly of nuclear weapons. Activities in TA-II include the decontamination, decommissioning, and remediation of facilities and landfills used in past research and development activities. Remediation of the Classified Waste Landfill which started in March 1998, neared completion in FY2000. A testing facility, the Explosive Component Facility, integrates many of the previous TA-II test activities as well as some testing activities previously performed in other remote test areas. The Access Delay Technology Test Facility is also located in TA-II.

TA-III is adjacent to and south of TA-V [both are approximately seven miles (11 km) south of TA-I]. TA-III facilities include extensive design-test facilities such as rocket sled tracks, centrifuges and a radiant heat facility. Other facilities in TA-III include a paper destructor, the Melting and Solidification Laboratory and the Radioactive and Mixed Waste Management Facility (RMWMF). RMWMF serves as central processing facility for packaging and storage of low-level and mixed waste. The remediation of the Chemical Waste Landfill, which started in September 1998, is an ongoing activity in TA-III.

TA-IV, located approximately 1/2 mile (1 km) south of TA-I, consists of several inertial-confinement fusion research and pulsed power research facilities, including the High Energy Radiation Megavolt Electron Source (Hermes-III), the Z Facility, the Short Pulsed High Intensity Nanosecond X-Radiator (SPHINX) Facility, and the Saturn Accelerator. TA-IV also hosts some computer science and cognition research.

TA-V contains two research reactor facilities, an intense gamma irradiation facility (using cobalt-60 and caesium-137 sources), and the Hot Cell Facility.

SNL/NM also has test areas outside of the five technical areas listed above. These test areas, collectively known as Coyote Test Field, are located southeast of TA-III and/or in the canyons on the west side of the Manzanita Mountains. Facilities in the Coyote Canyon Test Field include the Solar Tower Facility (34.9623 N, 106.5097 W), the Lurance Canyon Burn Site and the Aerial Cable Facility.

Open-source software

In the 1970s, the Sandia, Los Alamos, Air Force Weapons Laboratory Technical Exchange Committee initiated the development of the SLATEC library of mathematical and statistical routines, written in FORTRAN 77.

Today, Sandia National Laboratories is home to several open-source software projects:

In addition, Sandia National Laboratories collaborates with Kitware, Inc. in developing the Visualization Toolkit (VTK), a cross-platform graphics and visualization software suite. [39] This collaboration has focused on enhancing the information visualization capabilities of VTK and has in turn fed back into other projects such as ParaView and Titan. [33] [35] [39]

Self-guided bullet

On January 30, 2012, Sandia announced that it successfully test-fired a self-guided dart that can hit targets at 2,000 m (2,187 yd). The dart is 4 in (100 mm) long, has its center of gravity at the nose, and is made to be fired from a small-caliber smoothbore gun. It is kept straight in flight by four electromagnetically actuated fins encased in a plastic puller sabot that fall off when the dart leaves the bore. The dart cannot be fired from conventional rifled barrels because the gyroscopic stability provided by rifling grooves for regular bullets would prevent the self-guided bullet from reliably turning towards a target when in flight, so fins are responsible for stabilizing rather than spinning. A laser designator marks a target, which is tracked by the dart's optical sensor and 8-bit CPU. The guided projectile is kept cheap because it does not need an inertial measurement unit, since its small size allows it to make the fast corrections necessary without the aid of an IMU. The natural body frequency of the bullet is about 30 hertz, so corrections can be made 30 times per second in flight. Muzzle velocity with commercial gunpowder is 2,400 ft/s (730 m/s) (Mach 2.1), but military customized gunpowder can increase its speed and range. Computer modeling shows that a standard bullet would miss a target at 1,000 m (1,094 yd) by 9.8 yd (9 m), while an equivalent guided bullet would hit within 8 in (20 cm). Accuracy increases as distances get longer, since the bullet's motions settle more the longer it is in flight. [40] [41] [42]


List of supercomputers that have resided at Sandia:

See also

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Further reading

Coordinates: 35°03′02″N106°32′35″W / 35.050657°N 106.543136°W / 35.050657; -106.543136