Re: Project Orion Reborn.

Posted by Pasti on Feb 10, 2004 at 22:41

Re: Project Orion Reborn. (Wayne Smith)

"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."

I know it was never finished.And besides some computer models at the time, and some estimates,it was not exactly even started.
Look, I worked in plasma physics for three years in my "youth", both on cold plasmas(including ablation and chemical plasmas), and on hot plasmas - confined tokamak type, not nuclear.There is not only a difference in energy between these plasmas,but the physics also changes, not slightly I might add.So I don't exactly trust simulations.
Heck, even if you use the Spice engine to design circuitry you can mess an entire project if you do not pay good attention to the code.

"Theodore Taylor?"

It was Evert, Everet, something similar.

"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."

Oh, belive me, they could have.At least principially,they could have used a cannon to prove the ideea, and make the morons in charge understand the principles.
And much worse,they didn't exactly choose the "right" experts. They used some names of more or less importance, but they didn't even cover the basics.
Suffices to say that for the dynamite propelled thing they really didn't need theorists.As for the nuclear part, they didn't exactly get there.
And 1 million a year/7 years in the 60's is not what you would call a small budget. DOE was offering grants in 1996 of 2 milion/year for the first 3 of 5 years for a project, and it was considered a lot of money.Do the math for the 1996 and 1960 dollar, and see what their tight budget meant.

"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?

Wayne, von Braun was a ballistics expert, he had no knowledge of nuclear physics (I mean no experience), he was an engineer.Yeah, he was the director or whatever his position of the missile/rocket projects,but he had very little useful experience for the major research involved in Orion.
Yes, he lobbyed too, but you should not forget that at the time nuclear "power" was considered the cure of all problems.And more important, you should not forget the behind the scenes acts, and the divergences between different committees (all containing what you call geniuses).Neither Wheeler, nor Dyson were concerned too much about space travel and such, they were playing the most familiar string at the time.

"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."

As long as funds lasted.No difference from today's practice.

"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."

Let me answer your last question first:any handgun, rifle, machine-gun, flak-cannon, tank cannon.They operate on the same principles.With the advantage that the detonation energy is much more efficiently used because of the muzzle (see, I was right about J.T. Maston :-))

Bomb ejection system: only for dynamite charges,which is totally different from nuclear weapon release (it is not only a matter of scale)
Shock absorption:they never used it for the dynamite test, and it was never tested.Ding calculations and estimates is fine, normal, but there is a long way to the reliably working part.
Reaction mass:again, never got to be tested.
Energy channeling:this was the imbecility I was talking about previously, the anti-tank penetration charge(they wasted a lot of money on this one).
Ship design:what ship?

I know all the above were part of the project, but, and some were legitimate issues.But in terms of work and effort spent on them,they are not exactly very complicated issues, believe me.Granted, they took more time than nowdays, but they were not exactly complicated.And if they had the right expertise, they would have been even simpler.Bottom line, it was like children's play, and I am very sad to say it.They calculated a lot of useless things instead of focusing on the immediate issues, to keep the project going. It took 3 or 4 years to make that dynamite propelled junk, which is a lot of wasted time.It shouldn't have taken more than a year, to prove the principle.They started calculating and designing chimeric systems,wasting time and money on secondary (at that stage) issues.

"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?"

Why NASA?There are other companies that have started to explore space travel.

"Orion isn't extreme."

If you had a car that ran on similar principles, and you had to drive it every day,the above statement would have been much more dilutes.

"Your reaction is extreme."

OK, if you say so.Arguments of sorts?

"You totally ignore the facts and cling to your prejudices. What I propose is perfectly reasonable."

For the time being, your only argument has been that it is the only idea that would help in achieving space travel.And a lot of incomplete arguments regarding feasability,thanks to the unfinished orion project.

I don't think they are my prejudices.I have given you arguments,I sent you to the relevant literature to get a rough ideea about what your statements mean.

"One launch would be perfectly acceptable to the masses if they understood the true impact and not the fearmongering ravings of ecowackies."

This is unreasonable.Technologically.And financially.And against common sense.

"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."

Huh?What benefits?What can one launch of one big ship do?Even of several?Among other things, these orions are just projectiles in the end, and not exactly maneuvrable.Which rises even more problems.

"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."

You forget these things have to be refueled.Which means a lot of payload from some place, presumably the Earth, at least in the early stages.
And don't bet on rapidity.Don't forget that you have to stop them too (put them in some orbit), which limits the maximum speed they can attain to rather smaller values than you would expect.
Think about navigation.How do you solve this with a rapid moving large ship, sloppy in maneuvering?

"Unlike modern orbital vehicles they would only need enough fuel to reach orbit and be picked up by an Orion."

This is what modern orbital vehicles do.They have enough fuel to reach orbit,and some leftover(very small quantities) for maneuvering.
The Orion's orbit would be much higher than current ones, and fuel consumption is on the rise.The Orion picking up such shuttles is against logic,the shuttles should better dock/land whatever in/on the Orion.Maneuvrability is at high price.

"Asteroid mining could pay for the development of such orbital vehicles. So could space based energy systems or new industries like zero gravity metallurgy."

Asteroid mining?OK...

"I already gathered that. Your opinion is not a valid argument."

I gave you arguments, but you have ignored them.Your choice.

"I have yet to see a logical reason not to go with Orion or indeed a viable alternative."

I am for a viable alternative too.The Orion is too much resource inefficient per total (not that the actual shuttles do much better).

"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."

We have "conquered" it 30 years ago,and to what avail?
As I said, it is not a matter of conquering space, but to establish continual presence.
This engine problem is rather a red herring.The problem is more of financial nature than a technological one. With the actual technology one could build a much better and faster ship than the Orion, and actually do travel into space.But no one wants to commit the necessary financial. resources.

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