Building a Next Generation Seismic Hammer™ to Improve Ground-Based Nuclear Detonation Detection

Period of Performance: 06/13/2016 - 03/12/2017


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

HK Exploration LLC
1101 Colorado Street Number 62115
Boulder City, NV 89006
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


The National Nuclear Security Agency, NA-22 overseas nuclear counterproliferation R&D. The NA-22 Source Physics Experiment (SPE), Underground Nuclear Explosion Signatures Experiment (UNESE), and other counter-proliferation experiments involving the use of Seismic and Infrasonic (very lowfrequency acoustic) sources have traditionally used buried chemical explosives and relatively small arrays of seismic sensors to learn from the explosive events. These explosive experiments are lengthy, costly, and non-repeatable: they generate a few hundred bytes of data per dollar of cost. Much counter-proliferation seismic and some infrasonic experimentation can be done more rapidly and dynamically, at dramatically lower cost. Proposed Solution We propose to build a next generation of Seismic Hammer™, a rapidly deployed, self-mobile, repeatable, high-energy, impulsive mechanical seismic / infrasound source. This “Nexgen” Seismic Hammer™ will produce megabytes of data per dollar of cost. It will allow much of the counterproliferation seismic R&D done outside a conventional buried explosive’s sphere of elasticity to be done at a cost-per-byte that is four orders of magnitude less than current explosive sources, even when the costs of very large sensor arrays deployed with the Hammer are taken into account. The Hammer will generate many new discoveries that, in turn, enable operational counter-proliferation advances. Fast Track Work Scope (Phase 1 & 2) A. Design the “Nexgen Seismic Hammer™” and refine its build cost estimates. (Build in Phase 3). B. Prototype key sub-systems affecting the Nexgen Hammer’s seismic and acoustic waveforms. C. In coordination with Sandia National Labs (SNL) and Desert Research Institute (DRI), conduct extensive field tests of the prototyped sub-systems in (B). Commercialization Applications Disruptive seismic exploration technology for three existing markets: 1. U.S. National Security: counterproliferation R&D and Operations (e.g., On-Site Inspection — OSI). 2. Oil and gas exploration 3. Geothermal power reservoir exploration and development.