Research rockets launched from PMRF

  • Courtesy National Nuclear Security Administration

    A sounding rocket launches from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands last year.

LIHUE — The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and Sandia National Laboratories launched two research rockets this week from the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

The first launch took place sometime in the late morning on Monday, followed by a second test on Tuesday about 1 p.m., according to officials, who said that further details on the launches will not be available for at least a few days.

Thomas Clements, PMRF spokesman, said the “sounding rockets” were launched from the Kauai Test Facility, a tenant unit at PMRF, as part of the High Operational Tempo Sounding Rocket Flight Test, or “HOT SHOT” program, which flies scientific experiments and developing technologies on rockets.

“These test flights help researchers understand how new technologies deal with intense turbulence, heat and vibration,” Clements said in an email.

Troy Rummler, a spokesman for Sandia Labs, could not confirm details about the flights but said via email Tuesday that the rockets are designed to reach an altitude of about 200 miles and cover the same distance horizontally before reentering the atmosphere and crashing into the Pacific.

The missile flight paths were northwest from Kauai into broad ocean, according to Rummler, who said the rockets will not be recovered — they are designed to dispense data that can be recorded in real time — but added that the HOT SHOT team is considering adding retrieval to future flights.

This week’s tests were the third in a series of HOT SHOT rocket launches that began in May 2018, when a sounding rocket launched from Sandia’s Kauai Test Facility marked the first time the Department of Energy used rockets carrying scientific instruments since the 1990s.

A Sandia Labs press release following a second launch in October said the company is planning to conduct four launches in 2019.

“HOT SHOT activities are focused on maturing the next generation of innovative concepts and technologies supporting the U.S. nuclear stockpile,” Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton, with the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in a statement about a 2018 test launch. “Our engineers and scientists are providing the Nuclear Security Enterprise with a process that improves not only our agility in existing weapons life extension programs, but ultimately our responsiveness to threats against national security.”


Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or


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