In addition to dropping and testing the aeroballistic qualities of atomic bomb shapes during World War II, these other programs were also active at the test base. This background and history of the Salton Sea Test Base is taken from a report commissioned by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in 1994.
Natural Environmental Test Program
The Natural Environmental Test Program (NETP) was conducted in the 1950s to evaluate the effects of long-term storage of atomic weapons in natural environments. Representative samples of different weapons containing plutonium and enriched uranium were subjected to natural arctic, desert, and tropical environments. The Salton Sea Test Base was chosen as the site for the desert phase of the program. Some weapons were evaluated at all four natural environmental test sites, while others remained at the Salton Sea Test Base during the entire test program.
The “Dog Site Building” was constructed in 1954 to support the Natural Environmental Test Program activities. The building was used for environmental testing of weapons and maintenance, and for recording data. The weapons were tested by exposure to natural conditions outside. Different types of storage protection were used. Weapons components, including mechanisms containing depleted uranium and explosives were disassembled, inspected, and reassembled in the building to evaluate the effects of environmental exposure. The weapons did not contain fissionable materials. The test program was completed in November 1959.
Project Mercury Testing
North American Aircraft, Inc (under contract to McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation) conducted tests of the Project Mercury space capsule from the summer of 1959 through August 1960.. the purpose of the tests was to evaluate the capsule parachute landing system utilizing the tracking cameras and extensive water area of the Salton Sea Test Base.
Aeroballistic Test Unit Recovery
The Navy conducted underwater salvage activities to remove test unit weapon debris from the site 10 Marine Target. The Salvage operations included visual surveys by scuba divers and were conducted in three phases between September 1960 and May 1961. More than 10,000 pounds of material and at least one complete weapon prototype were recovered and returned to the Sandia facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for identification. In a June 15 1961 report to the Atomic Energy Commission, Sandia indicated that the impact sites had been sufficiently searched to eliminate all security risks.