Re: Project Orion Reborn.

Posted by Pasti on Feb 08, 2004 at 23:27

Re: Project Orion Reborn. (Wayne Smith)

Wayne, as enthusiastic as you are, the Orion project was and is doomed to failure, principle wise.

First of all, how many detonations are necessary in order to produce the liftoff of any significant cargo?You cannot just produce one huge blast and send the cargo into space(in one piece, I mean).If I recall, the "success" of the Orion project consisted in a some hundred pounds that lifted about 100 feet with a succession of 3 or four explosions of dynamite charges.

So in order to lift any significant cargo, you need several nuclear blasts.The first few will be close to the ground, but then the next will be in the atmosphere, higher and higher, and stronger and stronger, at least until escape velocity is attained.
With people in the cargo bay, that is in order to have people aboard you ship,granted, the blasts must be rather weak for the people to survive the dynamical effects,but they also have to be in larger number, to overcome gravity.
And remember, nuclear effects are cumulative, so the fact that there are smaller blasts doesn't count, only the total number counts.
So the one percent that you are talking about will be a one percent from a quite large amount, and the fallout will not be low.You need at least 100 bombs like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so you figure it out.Including the fact that some will explode in the lower, middle and upper atmosphere.There will be much more material than it was at Chernobil.

Moreover, a lot of the cargo will have to be lead, in order to actually protect the cargo from frying (not to mention that the protection would be far from foolproof) .And lead is the third heaviest of the common metals, which means you loose a lot of cargo with protection.Not to mention with the "fuel", and realease mechanisms.
And BTW, there is no technology yet that resists the proximity of a nuclear blast.

What Dyson and the nuclearist guy that worked on that project did was terribly sloppy work.The fact that it worked with dynamite charges cannot be extrapolated to nuclear charges, and Dyson should have known that.The minimal charge is set by the critical mass, and the resulting explosion is not that small.

Not to mention, again, that they spent over 1 million dollars at the time to (re)develop the principle of the anti-tank charge, which was known since the 40's.This is what is called at least lack of experimental abilities,and Dyson showed a lot of the latter.As a friend of mine put it, they knew something when they didn't give him a Ph.D.He was nevertheless a good theoreticla physicist, but his does not make him automatically a good experimentalist too.

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