The problem being solved: The development of hypersonic weapons technology, which launches explosive devices five times faster than the speed of sound, is a priority for the Department of Defense (DoD). In 2018, a new technology with these capabilities was developed by Sandia National Laboratories and fast-tracked by the DoD to be combat-ready in 2023.
The technology solution: The Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) technology designed at Sandia is a key component of a system that launches an explosive device. The glide body itself is a conical structure that sits on top of a missile until it reaches optimal speed, then detaches and continues toward its target. The C-HGB system will help to ensure the military has the latest, most effective weapons for use in defending the United States. Hypersonic weapons can operate at varying altitudes, which gives soldiers and sailors the ability to launch from land or sea and strike targets from great distances away very quickly.
The tech transfer mechanisms: Sandia was not equipped to produce the C-HGB on a large scale, so a key aspect of the partnership involved access to industry contractors for the Army and Navy. A Government Use License and a Strategic Partnership Agreement allowed Sandia experts to conduct hands-on training and share knowledge with those contractors related to designing and building the C-HGB technology. The Sandia team also created an Industry Partner Program and Visiting Worker Agreement to allow 138 visitors associated with the project (including engineers, technologists, and document control staff) into Sandia Labs, using Sandia’s equipment and learning directly from Sandia engineers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, safety was a top priority, so specific cautions such as plexiglass barriers and specialized face masks were used to maximize safety for all individuals involved during side-by-side training.
The outcomes: At the time of this award submission, the C-HGB weapons system was being mass-produced so that soldiers and sailors could use it to defend the nation starting in 2023, as planned—despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sandia will work on upgrades for the C-HGB technology to add state of the art capabilities and ensure reliability, which will be transferred to the military’s industry partners as the development of the weapons system evolves.
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