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US Air Force Launches Satellite Carrying NNSA-provided Nuclear Detonation Detection Sensors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, May 16, with the support of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a U.S. Air Force Delta IV rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral. Hosted onboard was a GPS IIF navigation satellite and a Global Burst Detector (GBD) payload designed to detect, identify and precisely locate nuclear explosions.

The 300-pound GBD payload, supported by NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development Program and built by Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, is the latest space-based sensor addition to the United States Nuclear Detonation Detection System (USNDS), which monitors compliance with the international Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT). The LTBT, signed by 108 countries, prohibits nuclear testing in the atmosphere, outer space and underwater.

“The sixth GPS IIF space vehicle launch puts into orbit the latest technology for treaty monitoring,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “Supporting the verification measures of international treaties is an important part of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons around the world.”

The launch is another milestone in the successful, 50-year partnership between the U.S. Air Force, the NNSA and the national laboratories, which will continue to work together to employ advanced technologies for nuclear detonation detection instruments that improve system performance while reducing overall cost. Future systems will collect more data, process information faster and improve discrimination, requiring fewer platforms to monitor the globe for nuclear events.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous 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 U.S. and abroad.