Re: Project Orion Reborn.

Posted by
Wayne Smith on Feb 09, 2004 at 21:13

Re: Project Orion Reborn. (Pasti)

You have expressed your opinion that Orion is doomed to failure and given several reasons why you believe this to be the case. Let's take a look at them.

You are right that we cannot just produce one huge blast and send the cargo into space. You might be surprised at the number of anti-Orion people I speak to who actually assume that Jules Verne style launching and then go into a long tirade about why it won't work. Clearly you are capable of rational thought. Therefore I will ignore your opinions and concentrate on your "facts".

It was 5 charges and the model was an insignificant part of the program. It wasn't originally planned but was introduced for promotional purposes. It was a common "fact" that explosives could only be used to blow things up. Everyone from Generals down assumed this to be the case so nobody took Orion seriously. They needed a simple model test to demonstrate to the high brass that the principle of detonation propulsion worked. That was the only purpose of the model and it was a total success.

The bulk of the research was concentrated on materials testing. How plasma and close proximity atomic blasts react various metals and shapes. Pioneering work.
"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,"

Only for a small ship. For a large one we can use hydrogen bombs. A thousand times cleaner relative to yield than small fission bombs. Bigger bombs are far more efficient.

"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."

That one percent was estimated for an entire Orion program. Perhaps DOZENS of launches. I'm talking about one launch. Already that brings the 1% down 0.1% at a conservative guess. By eliminating a big groundburst with a wide steel launchpad we also eliminate 99.999%(conservative estimate, probably higher) of that 0.1% leaving 0.00001% only. One coal plant probably pumps out that much in a day.

"You need at least 100 bombs like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so you figure it out."

See what happens when you go off on a long list of extrapolations originally based on flawed data? You go right off the rails. They won't be anything like Fat Man and Little Boy because those were fission devices. Hydrogen bombs are equivalent to a thousand of those and only create a thousandth of the fallout.

"Moreover, a lot of the cargo will have to be lead, in order to actually protect the cargo from frying"

In a large Orion there is enough shielding from the structure alone to protect the crew. You need about 60cm ideally. For a very small Orion it becomes a problem and does indeed cost you in payload but this doesn't apply to a larger model. No lead.

"And BTW, there is no technology yet that resists the proximity of a nuclear blast."

I beg to differ. Even plain old Aluminum performed very well in nuclear tests. Steel was the material of choice and tests were performed with objects placed within 3 metres of a nuclear blast. The best shape is a round plate that's thickest in the middle but tapering towards the edges. Ablation was a key issue of the research program (not the 'hot rod'). It was discovered that graphite based oil has peculiar opaquing properties and could be used to virtually eliminate surface wear entirely. An ingenious method was found to spray a coat onto the plate between detonations.

"What Dyson and the nuclearist guy that worked on that project did was terribly sloppy work."

Theodore Taylor?

"The fact that it worked with dynamite charges cannot be extrapolated to nuclear charges, and Dyson should have known that."

He did. In his notes about early single shot tests he states that many, many times. As I have already said, it was only built to demonstrate that explosives can propel a rocket. Something the administration couldn't comprehend. They didn't believe it was possible. Most of them still thought rockets moved by pushing against the air.

"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."

You are way, way off track again. I think 10,000 dollars was spent on that 'Putt Putt' after it was approved for construction. It went from drawing board to finished model in something like 6 months. No similarity to any military shells I'm afraid.

"This is what is called at least lack of experimental abilities,and Dyson showed a lot of the latter."

Dyson only worked on the project a year. He wasn't even there when they built the successful launch model. He was one member of a large team which included theoreticians, experimentalists and engineers. Everybody just dug in and did a bit of everything. There were no guidelines for constructing an Orion so they just had to do it. As a consequence they were completely successful. The only failure in this story was the failure of Nasa to support it. As a consequence we now have a flag on the moon and nobody has been back there in well over 30 years. We could have gone to Pluto.

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