Sample of an instrument-carrying rocket designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight. Courtesy image
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and Sandia National Laboratories successfully launched a research rocket in May that carried a series of experiments designed to deepen scientific understanding and support the stewardship of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
This launch marks the first time NNSA has used scientific instrument-carrying rockets, also known as sounding rockets, since the 1990s. The High Operational Tempo Sounding Rocket Flight Test Program, or “HOT SHOT,” seeks to provide an agile technology testing platform and shorten the duration of modernization programs.
“HOT SHOT activities are focused on maturing the next generation of innovative concepts and technologies supporting the U.S. nuclear stockpile,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton, NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application. “Our engineers and scientists are providing the Nuclear Security Enterprise with a process that improves not only our agility in existing weapons life extension programs, but ultimately our responsiveness to threats against national security.”
The sounding rocket was safely launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, carrying experiments designed to validate modeling and simulation assumptions, explore the dynamic performance of additively manufactured parts, and perform other non-nuclear, non-explosive research.
The data will be analyzed by technicians, scientists, and engineers at Sandia Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California. Using surplus inventory motors that are inexpensive compared to traditional flight tests, NNSA plans to continue sounding rocket launches through HOT SHOT to advance modernization and life extension programs.