Photo: Department of defence
Sandia National Laboratories is behind so many of the country’s critical national defence programs, it’s a wonder that most people haven’t heard of it. After the end of the Second World War, J. Robert Oppenheimer (the man considered to be the father of the atomic bomb and a professor at the University of California) needed to find a way to maintain the momentum of the short-term atom bomb research project.
Oppenheimer ran the Manhattan Project, the effort to collect the most brilliant minds in the United States to develop an atomic bomb. The physics super-team built the two nuclear weapons dropped on Japan from scratch. They operated out of a laboratory at Los Alamos.
Once the war was over, Oppenheimer wanted to keep the effort going. In order to retain personnel, the army renovated Oxnard Field, a former airport near Albuquerque, into the nation’s primary nuclear research facility.
The Z-division, which engineered the nuclear bombs in World War Two, moved to Oxnard. Soon, the installation was referred to as “Sandia Base” after the nearby Sandia Mountains. In 1947 the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project was initiated to continue the work of the Manhattan Project with restored research efforts and secrecy.
The Sandia Lab was the successor of the Oppenheimer’s atom bomb project at Los Alamos, and would go on to propel the nuclear weapons program from WWII through the Cold War.
Oppenheimer’s University of California had previously managed the Los Alamos laboratory, but the school did not want to be associated with the continued development of nuclear weapons after the war. So, AT&T took over the base. They managed the national laboratory through their manufacturing branch, Western Electric.
Photo: Department of defence
From 1979 onward, the Z-division at Sandia base was called “Sandia National Laboratories.”Between 1947 and 1979, the scientists working at Sandia Base invented nuclear bombs that could be stockpiled, the Strypi rocket, the B61 tactical thermonuclear bomb, the Poseidon missile’s re-entry vehicle, nuclear detection satellites and accident-proof nuclear waste containers. In 1973 Sandia National Labs began researching solar cells and wind energy.
In 1993, management of Sandia National Laboratories was transferred to defence contractor Martin Marietta. In 1995, Lockheed and Martin Marietta merged to form Lockheed Martin, which now owns the Sandia Corporation as a subsidiary.
Photo: Sandia Labs Press Release
These days, Sandia National Labs specifically works with the Department of Energy to handle the nuclear programs for the country. In addition to their research in nuclear weaponry, Sandia National Labs also researches supercomputing, micro-electromechanical technology, weapons systems like the laser-guided bullet, chemistry and cyber security. They also maintain the largest X-ray generator in the world, the Z-machine.
As it stands today, Sandia remains one of the Department of Energy’s most reliable sources of advanced research and Research and Development with regards to the nation’s nuclear program. They also continue to perform research for defence department and the military.
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