Sandia Labs News Releases

Expanding testing capacity for Sandia weapons modernization programs

NNSA administrator tours new facility at Livermore campus

LIVERMORE, Calif. — Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration and Department of Energy’s under secretary for nuclear security, joined Sandia National Laboratories Deputy Labs Director Dori Ellis and other Sandia leaders today for a tour of the newest facility in nuclear weapons systems engineering at Sandia’s California site — the Sandia Programs Engineering and Assembly Research facility.

NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, center, joined Sandia National Laboratories leaders for a tour of the new SPEAR facility. Testing performed at the facility is completed in close collaboration with partners across the Nuclear Security Enterprise. (Photo by Randy Wong) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

The SPEAR facility, which opened this summer, is the first of its kind at Sandia’s California campus and expands Sandia’s capacity to assemble and electrically test nuclear weapons components and systems for the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

Experiments performed at the facility will help weapons-systems engineers understand hardware systems performance to ensure the safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent. Sandia is the design and engineering lab for non-nuclear components of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

“This new facility presents an exciting opportunity for Sandia’s nuclear weapons modernization programs,” said Gordon-Hagerty. “The SPEAR facility represents a significant investment in Sandia’s weapons-systems engineering capability in California that will be critical to meeting the hardware delivery demands of our partners across the nuclear security enterprise.”

The 10,000-square-foot facility includes a laboratory for functional electrical testing of weapons assemblies. The lab is equipped with thermal chambers that enable Sandia engineers to perform electrical tests at simulated environment temperatures. Comprehensive data from tests performed at the SPEAR facility will allow systems engineers to determine if weapons systems meet U.S. Department of Defense requirements and refine the hardware accordingly.

“We wanted to both increase capacity and continue the high level of rigor with which we assemble our nuclear weapons systems and that required an investment in a new facility,” said Mike Hardwick, systems engineering director at Sandia’s California site. “The nuclear weapons modernization programs have a large workload for development tests and qualification tests. In partnership with our test assembly facility in New Mexico, the SPEAR facility will enable us to handle the growing demands of these programs.”

Customizable for different nuclear weapons stockpile programs, the SPEAR facility at Sandia in Livermore, California, enables experiments to help weapon systems engineers deeply understand hardware system performance. (Photos by David Nagel)

Customizable for different nuclear weapons stockpile programs, the SPEAR facility at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, enables experiments to help weapons-systems engineers deeply understand hardware system performance. (Photo by David Nagel) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Additionally, in the facility’s large activity bay, systems engineers will have the space and equipment for building hardware models and securely storing components, equipment and assembled test units. The new facility also includes a portable weapons-system simulator, soldering benches with fume extraction hoods for spot repair, as well as test instrumentation, power supplies, wave-form generators and additional equipment that help ensure the parts are reliable and safe. Visitor workspaces and video teleconference rooms will facilitate close collaboration with Sandia systems engineers and their nuclear security partners.

After 18 months of work to renovate and certify the high-bay facility, the opening of SPEAR represents the newest chapter in the long history of the facility. Built in the early 1990s, the complex was originally designed for laser research to support the Strategic Defense Initiative. When the complex was rebranded as the Micro and Nano Technologies Laboratories in 2002, multiple laboratories were established to support a range of missions, from materials science to satellite engineering.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia Labs has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security, defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness, with main facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California.

Sandia news media contact: Paul Rhien,, 505-264-7007