August 28, 2006

Sandia hosts NASA test at Solar Tower Sept. 6

Artist concept of a spacecraft using aerocapture to enter an orbit around Mars Artist concept of a spacecraft using aerocapture to enter an orbit around Mars. (Photo courtesy of NASA; Larger images are available from NASA.)
Download 300dpi JPEG image, “aerocapture.jpg,” 176K (Media are welcome to download/publish this image with related news stories.)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center’s Space Propulsion Technology Project is scheduled to conduct tests at Sandia National Laboratories’ National Solar Thermal Test Facility Wednesday, Sept. 6, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. MDT. A new advanced thermal protection system for aerocapture flight maneuvers will also be unveiled. Advance registration is required, with details below.

NASA and Sandia are allowing media to view testing of new advanced thermal protection systems for aerocapture flight maneuvers. Aerocapture is a near-propellantless maneuver that uses a planet’s atmosphere to capture a spacecraft and place it in its desired orbit.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.

NASA test to take place at Sandia's National Solar Thermal Test Facility NASA’s test will take place at Sandia’s National Solar Thermal Test Facility, where solar thermal components and systems are developed, researched, and tested.
Download 300dpi JPEG image, “solar-tower.jpg,” 412K (Media are welcome to download/publish this image with related news stories.)

The nine-acre test facility at Sandia consists of a 200-foot-high solar tower, 212 computer-controlled mirrors called heliostats, and a separate five-story control tower. The solar tower uses the mirrors to track the sun and focus sunlight on a target, simulating the high heat encountered during an aerocapture maneuver.

News media will be able to view tests from both towers and interview NASA managers, along with visiting independent investigators from research facilities across the country. Media interested in covering the event should contact Stephanie Holinka at Sandia Media Relations at (505) 284-9227 no later than Thursday, Aug. 31 for security processing and directions to Kirtland Air Force Base’s designated gate, where parking is available. Media must report to the parking lot by 11:30 a.m. MDT and will be driven to the test facility.

On hand for interviews will be Bonnie James, technology manager of aerocapture propulsion at Marshall; Michelle Munk, lead systems engineer for aerocapture technology at Marshall; and others from partnering institutions. They will demonstrate and answer questions about new spacecraft shell configurations, inflatable heat shields, inflatable deceleration systems, advanced thermal protection systems, and other new technologies.

For supporting materials for this news release — such as photographs, fact sheets, video and audio files and more — please visit the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Newsroom at: A list of investigators can be found at

Top of Page

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Stephanie Holinka,, (505) 284-9227