Shock Thermodynamic Applied Research Facility (STAR)

The STAR facility, within Sandia’s Solid Dynamic Physics Department, is one of a few institutions in the world with a major shock-physics program. This is the only experimental test facility in the world that can cover the full range of pressure (bars to multi-Mbar) for material property study utilizing gas/propellant launchers, ramp-loading pulsers, and ballistic applications.

Material Characterization

Shock wave experiments are an established technique to determine the equation of state at high pressures and temperature, which can be applied to virtually all materials. This technique allows the probing of the internal structure of the material as it undergoes deformation. This provides a better understanding of the material properties for development and the refining of material models and helping to develop new materials. We provide nearly a half-century of experience in material characterization and are one of the leaders in shock-wave studies.

Ballistic Studies

The STAR facility is the only facility in the world where the breadth of ballistic studies can be performed; from conventional arms (penetration), fragmentation events, space impact events (micrometeoroid impacts), and extreme velocity impacts of space dust while utilizing state-of-the-art diagnostics.

Typical areas of study include:

  • equations of state, phase boundaries, and constitutive properties
  • dynamic strength of materials, dynamic yield, spallation, fracture-fragmentation, pore compaction, explosives initiation, and penetration phenomenology
  • shock and quasi-isentropic loading techniques
  • ultra high velocity impact testing to 19 km/s
  • shock induced vaporization
  • pressure shear (oblique impact) experiments for direct strength of material measurements
  • precision ballistic impacts
  • armor/anti-armor material characterization
  • reactive and energetic materials
  • toxic and hazardous materials testing
  • high altitude atmospheric simulation testing
  • emerging threat areas for counterterrorism
  • hydrocode validation

Available Launchers

  • 100 mm compressed gas gun (velocities to 1 km/s)
  • 100 mm compressed light gas gun for oblique impacts (velocities to 400m/s)
  • 89 mm powder gun (0.5 - 2.3 km/s)
  • 30 mm 2-stage light gas gun (velocities to 7 km/sec)
  • 3-19 mm 2-stage light gas gun (ballistic applications)
  • 12-19 mm three stage gun (velocities to 12 km/s)
  • 1-10 mm Enhanced Hypervelocity launcher (velocities 12 to 19 km/s)
  • variety of conventional weapons (small armament) for validation testing


  • velocity interferometry (VISAR) (up to 20 simultaneous points per event)
  • photon doppler velocimetry (PDV)
  • high resolution line imaging VISAR
  • radiography, high speed photography
  • optical multi-channel spectroscopy of impact flash events
  • state-of-the-art digital recording instrumentation
  • 21 channels of high frequency analog recording instrumentation
  • on-site facility support
  • machine shop
  • dark room
  • cleanroom optics lab
  • electronics development
  • lab lapping facility
  • data reduction/analysis and interpretation


We provide nearly a half-century of experience in material characterization and are one of the leaders in shock-wave studies and ballistic applications. A complete technical and scientific staff is available to aid in the definition and execution of an experimental program as well as interpreting results. This facility provides turn-key operations from defining, designing, fabrication, testing and data analysis and interpretation of the program. Our department provides world class computational capabilities by utilizing Sandia National Laboratories developed hydrocode (CTH) which are available for modeling and simulation of experimental events.