July 17, 1996

Barbara Wetherell/Matthew Donoghue, 202/586-5806

DOE Marks 60th Launch of Satellite-Borne Nuclear Monitoring Technology

Maintaining President Clinton's Leadership in the Fight for Freedom and Peace

On July 15, the U.S. Air Force launched the 60th satellite carrying Department of Energy (DOE)-designed-and-built nonproliferation sensors that continuously monitor the globe for above-ground nuclear explosions. The deployment of these sensors is one way DOE is helping meet President Clinton's State of the Union challenge to lead the fight for freedom and peace throughout the world.

Technologies like these, resulting from DOE's nonproliferation research and development program, support the U.S. moratorium on nuclear testing. They also are an important part of the verification regime that makes a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty possible.

"Thanks to the President's leadership, the world is closer to the achievement of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty -- an American objective since the 1950s -- than ever before," declared Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary. "A comprehensive test ban will be a major stride toward stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons and will greatly strengthen the security of the United States and other nations."

This satellite, a part of the Global Positioning System, will carry two DOE sensors designed to detect visible light and X-ray emissions from a nuclear explosion. The sensors will be supplemented by a commercial electromagnetic pulse sensor. Together with similar sensors already in orbit, these instruments will detect any treaty-violating above-ground nuclear detonation.

DOE's Office of Nonproliferation and National Security and its predecessors have been furnishing nuclear-explosion-monitoring satellite payloads for the U.S. space program since the first Vela Hotel satellite was launched in 1963 to monitor the Limited Test Ban Treaty. These sensors, along with related data processing and ancillary equipment, are all designed and assembled in New Mexico at DOE's Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories.