Re: Project Orion Reborn.

Posted by
Wayne Smith on Feb 10, 2004 at 19:00

Re: Project Orion Reborn. (Pasti)

"Well,you might say that it was pioneer work, but I am still skeptical.As much as I have been able to learn about this project, they tested matrials more for chemical detonation errosion,for dynamite charges.And this plasma is orders of magnitude colder than fission plasma, not to mention fusion plasma.And it also lasts much less than any of the latter two.So this testing, while good of the dynamite charge detonation propulsion, is pretty irrelevant for nuclear detonations."

You are absolutely right that chemical tests are not an accurate measure of nuclear plasma impact but remember this was a shoestring budget they were operating on. Conventional explosive was a lot cheaper and readily available for experiments and the principle is similar enough to make some rudimentary conclusions. Dunne knew that high explosive driven plasma guns could never duplicate a nuclear explosion but he also realised that if you began heading experimentally in that direction you could check whether the mathematical models were on the right track or not. The velocities might have been lower than an Orion plasma but the densities were higher, producing conditions at the target that were close enough to keep the theorists honest and instil confidence in the mathematical models that were still evolving. It was pioneering work because it led to the SPUTTER ablation code still in use today. Tests involving nuclear blasts did back up the results. I should mention that this aspect of Orion research never finished. The military kept on pursuing it after Orion was cancelled and they are still studying it today. This Orion research was the foundation for plasma weapons which use a nuclear bomb containing reaction mass to direct a narrow beam of hot plasma at a target. An Orion in reverse. President Reagan briefly investigated the possibility of space based weapons of this nature. You might recall it was named 'Star Wars' and a rather infamous movie director attempted to sue over it.

"The project originally proposed fission bombs,and for the small 10000 ton ship, there was a 10kton blast every second at liftoff, while at high altitude they got off with 20kton every 30 seconds.Which is a lot of fallout."

Because fission was all that was available. Hydrogen bombs weren't invented yet. Fission bombs are very weak and very dirty. We could launch a lot more payload for a hell of a lot less fallout using fusion. Fallout is my major concern too.

"Theodore Taylor?"

Project leader. World's leading expert in fission bomb design. Invented the smallest fission device ever in existance. Such work is more of an art than a science. He is one of the worlds few genuine geniuses. There were many other physicists working on the project.

"But they were scientists,they should have done better."

How could they have done better. Their job was to prove its feasibility and come up with workable designs. At a time when nuclear fission was a revolutionary new technology. Their works within the constraints of exceedingly limited funding was nothing less than astounding. Nobody could have done better except maybe Ulam when he was young.

"He lobbyed for it for years, together with daddy-o Wheeler, if I am not wrong"

So did Wernher Von Braun. All very smart men who knew that Orion was the only way to achieve serious manned missions. History has proven them right. Tell me, how many bases do we have on Mars today? Remember the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Arthur C. Clarke based his space vehicle on Orion. Kubrick then changed it to a dumb booster for the movie. Clarke was a visionary and those ships he predicted in have come to pass. What a sorry and pathetic space age the real 2001 turned out to be. It could have been different.

"Uh, I am afraid I won't fell for this.In translation, what you said above reads:"They had no clue what they were doing, so whatever they did was a success."
Yeah, right.They reinvented the cannon without a muzzle, at a 7 million dollar tag, which indeed is a big achievement.J.T.Mason did better, and Verne was just a writer."

Please don't put false words in my mouth. Altering my comments isn't nice. I've already told you several times that the test model was an insignificant part of the total research effort. Conducted right near the end. Work was also done on bomb ejection systems, shock absorption, pulse unit design, reaction mass, detonation timings, energy channeling, material opacity, ejection tubes, cylinder detonation, coolant storage tanks and overall ship design to name but a few things. The model fired 5 charges in sequence from its central stem. Please show me a previous "cannon" which could do that.

"Look,you are a fan, supporter of the Orion project, or its new(er)versions, the Daedalus and Prometheus I think they are called."

Look, Daedalus uses above state of the art technology. It is science fiction and impossible with today's technology. Prometheus is the name for the new nuclear space initiative. It comprises reactor and rtg technologies. That's reactor thermal and energy systems. No Orions.

"But if you want interstellar travel, you will have to give up the mentality of extreme conditions, extreme circumstances, and extreme methods."

As opposed to what. Sitting on our butts another 30 years watching Nasa stumble around achieving nothing worthwhile? Orion isn't extreme. Your reaction is extreme. You totally ignore the facts and cling to your prejudices. What I propose is perfectly reasonable. One launch would be perfectly acceptable to the masses if they understood the true impact and not the fearmongering ravings of ecowackies. Weighed up against the massive benefits longterm for all of humankind it is not only a sensible objective but the only sane one we have when it comes to serious spaceflight.

"A flag on Pluto is useless if Pluto cannot be reached in a regular manner, on a regular basis.So is the flag on the Moon.It is only a symbol of pride,and nothing else. Not even of technical advance, if you think of the primitivism of the ship that landed on the Moon. Of course, it proved a point,but unfortunately it never went further than that."

Exactly my point. Orions can't land. What a fleet of such vehicles would provide is a way of repeatedly travelling between worlds in comfort and rapid time. This would give us the incentive we need to develop orbital vehicles that can reach such interplanetary ships. Unlike modern orbital vehicles they would only need enough fuel to reach orbit and be picked up by an Orion. Asteroid mining could pay for the development of such orbital vehicles. So could space based energy systems or new industries like zero gravity metallurgy.

"Instead of focusing on reaching Pluto, Mars, and whatever just to pin a flag on it, think of how to develop interplanetry travel as a continuous means of travel and exploring."

That is exactly what I have proposed.

"a ship blasting its way across space is not the solution.In my opinion at least."

I already gathered that. Your opinion is not a valid argument. I have yet to see a logical reason not to go with Orion or indeed a viable alternative. I think most people are sick of waiting for some fantasy engine to come along. They quite rightly suspect that it is never going to happen and I for one would like to see us conquer space in this lifetime.

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