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NNSA Launches New Detection Capability

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced the deployment of a satellite that heralds the beginning of a new era of space-based nuclear explosion monitoring.

On May 27, 2010, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) successfully launched the first IIF series of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, which carry improved nuclear detonation detection instruments built by Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

"The deployment of these new instruments will significantly improve our ability to detect atmospheric or space-based nuclear explosions and verify compliance with nuclear test ban treaties," said NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Ken Baker. “The launch advances President Obama’s broader nuclear nonproliferation agenda and strengthens the NNSA-USAF partnership that has ensured continuous global nuclear detonation detection coverage for nearly half a century."

NNSA’s nonproliferation research and development efforts work to reduce the threat to national security posed by nuclear weapons proliferation and possible detonation or the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials through the long-term development of new technology. In the area of nuclear detonation detection, NNSA provides operational sensor payloads for integration onto USAF satellites. These sensors are crucial components of the nation’s independent means to verify compliance with international nuclear test treaties. All Global Positioning System satellites carry these sensors, thus the entire planet is monitored continuously for tell-tale signs of treaty violation.

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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 in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the 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.