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A key mission of the National Nuclear Security Administration is to maintain the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing. Data gathered from experiments at the Contained Firing Facility (CFF) help validate computer modeling about how the explosives and assemblies in nuclear weapons will behave. The CFF firing chamber is the largest indoor firing chamber in the world, used for large-scale experiments using high-explosives with full containment of hazardous materials. The facility provides a combination of capabilities, including wide-angle flash radiography, laser velocimetry, pin-dome measurements, and high-speed optical cameras that are used to measure dynamics during the experiments. The CFF is a key component of NNSA's national hydrodynamic test capabilities and plays an important role in evaluating weapons in the active stockpile.

A worker prepares for a test firing inside the Contained Firing Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


Las Positas College student Damon Alcorn receives the Chamber/Sandia Student of the Year Award. From left,  Las Positas College President Barry Russell, Damon Alcorn, and Sandia/California Community Relations Officer Madeline Burchard.

Former Army Ranger Damon Alcorn recently received the Sandia National Laboratories-Livermore Chamber of Commerce Student of the Year Award. Presented at the Chamber’s State of the City Luncheon last month, the annual award highlights a Las Positas College student with exemplary academic achievements and leadership.

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Alcorn graduated cum laude from California State University, East Bay in 2004 with a bachelor of arts in history. That same year Alcorn enlisted in the U.S. Army. After completing infantry training, airborne school, and the Ranger Indoctrination Program, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

After his military service, Alcorn earned a master of arts in liberal arts from California State University, Sacramento. Following graduation he entered the private sector, working in corporate communications and public relations.

In 2012, he enrolled at Las Positas College where he studied computer science and network security and administration. This spring, Alcorn received an associate of science in engineering technology from Los Positas College.

In the fall of 2014, Alcorn joined the Engineering Technology Program at Las Positas, a collaboration between the college and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). In the summer of 2015, Alcorn interned at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility and was that fall hired as a student employee by the LLNL’s Institute for Scientific Computing Research. Simultaneously, he participated in NASA’s National Community College Aerospace Scholars program at the Armstrong Flight Research Center.

Next month he will begin pursuing a master of science in computer science at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

Madeline Burchard, community relations officer for Sandia/California, who helped present the award to Alcorn, said education and specifically science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are core to Sandia.

“Since Sandia National Lab’s inception, we have invested in education,” Burchard said. “It is part of our culture to give back and it’s a value that we have carried over the last 60 years. We want to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.”


The Curiosity rover, sporting Los Alamos’ ChemCam, examines the Kimberley formation in Gale crater on Mars.

Today, in accordance with a 1971 Presidential proclamation, the United States commemorates the first human setting foot on the moon. As a science agency, NNSA’s technology and development have given rise to extraterrestrial innovation and enabled other-worldly achievements. From building the hardware that help scientists reach outer space to modeling the physics that both explain and make space exploration possible, NNSA’s labs and sites are at the forefront of American space ingenuity.

LANL's robotic thinking telescope system, RAPTOR. Technology created by NNSA labs and scientists is frequently deployed and used from space, including nuclear detonation detection sensors and other space-based nonproliferation technology. NNSA lab researchers investigate sensing solutions to address a wide range of complex national security issues in space, including “patrolling traffic” of objects orbiting earth to keep them from colliding with each other, and the ChemCam instrument package currently exploring Mars.

Capabilities at NNSA’s labs that were created to support NNSA’s stockpile stewardship and nonproliferation missions are ideal for testing spacecraft materials against the harsh environments endured during space travel. Highlights of these efforts include:

  • NNSA engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory work to power space missions with travel-size nuclear reactors.
  • Sandia National Laboratories engineers work through space concepts from a nuclear powered moon base and satellite propulsion to polymer films for space telescope mirrors.
  • NNSA’s Y-12 National Security Campus helps create fuel for NASA’s long-range space exploration missions, while Los Alamos lab helps chemically process and package the fuel.
  • NNSA’s Savannah River Site produced the plutonium used to power NASA’s Pluto flyby probe. More than 27 space missions have used plutonium-driven power sources, including 10 in Earth orbits, five moon missions, three Mars missions and nine planetary missions.

Among some of the most exciting work conducted at NNSA’s laboratories is for planetary defense – detecting, tracking, and planning deflection missions for asteroids that might collide with Earth. All of NNSA’s labs participate in the planetary defense effort.

Learn more about the work NNSA does to advance study of outer space at the space-focused web pages for Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore national labs.

Participants gathered last week in Los Alamos to see featured scientists' work and get the first shot at engaging in tech transfer opportunities. They also had an opportunity to network.

PuLMo, a miniature artificial lung, mimics the response of the human lung to drugs, toxins, and other agents. The public was invited to learn about PuLMo and other technologies developed at LANL.Last week NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) co-hosted DisrupTech, a community event aimed at connecting innovation from the lab to community members and industry leaders to encourage technology transfer.

The title comes from the world-changing technologies the lab’s scientists deliver, which have the potential to disrupt existing markets and create new ones. The Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation at Los Alamos co-sponsored the event, which featured entrepreneurial-minded Los Alamos scientists with ideas for groundbreaking technology. These researchers presented their technologies to a private-sector panel in hopes of garnering support to bring the ideas to industry.

Pulak Nath and Jennifer Harris presented PuLMo, a breathing “lung” bioreactor. Youzuo Lin discussed employing big-data techniques to accurately locate and explore geothermal energy. Dylan Harp presented his research on technology to evaluate the reliability of predictive models on rare events. David Thompson showcased technology that could revolutionize high-time-resolution, low-light imaging. Scott Hsu discussed his work toward developing nuclear fusion as a safe, secure, economical and carbon-free form of electricity production.

The pair of Pulak Nath and Jennifer Harris, second from left and second from right, tied with Steve Hsu, right, for "Best Pitch" at DisrupTech. Nath and Harris presented PuLMo while Hsu discussed his work toward developing nuclear fusion.