CAPE CANAVERAL, FL. - In close cooperation with the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) deployed two payloads of nuclear detonation detection equipment aboard an Air Force satellite today. The payloads were separated from the second stage booster at 3:22 a.m. EST this morning.
This marks the last launch of the current type of satellite, which has been used to monitor for missile launches and nuclear detonations for more than 35 years. This cooperation will continue into the future as NNSA and the Air Force work to place the next generation of nuclear detonation detection instruments into orbit.
"NNSA and the Department of Energy have a long history of developing these components of the nuclear detonation detection system which is vital to U.S. national security," said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation William Tobey in Washington, D.C. "This launch marks not an ending, but a new beginning for this sophisticated and crucial system."
The NNSA payloads were launched on the Air Force Defense Support Program's final satellite. This program was the nation's principle missile launch warning system for many years. NNSA's sensors on these satellites, coupled with other NNSA-built sensors on Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, form a global detection network that supports the nation's national defense needs.
The next generation of nuclear detection instruments, already under development at NNSA's Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory, will be placed on the Air Force's new Space Based Infrared System satellites, as well as on a new block of GPS satellites.
Working together, NNSA and the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center have ensured continuous global nuclear detonation detection coverage for nearly half a century. For more information, visit the United States Air Force's page on Defense Support Program Satellites.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a separately organized agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad.
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371