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Anonymous Poster

How NASA and Star City have it wrong

07/09/2006 2:00 PM

leslie howard writes:
How NASA and Star City have it wrong

A few yers ago on the Discovery Channel a tv programme outlined how NASA had thought about using nuclear explosions to place large objects into Earth orbit in the 1960's. J.F.Kennedy was horrified at this as he strongly suspected that it would start WWIII due to the "arms race" and ordered that only chemical rockets should be used. However, the political situation has changed considerably since then and the Russians and Americans are working together in space, so the idea could possibly be resurrected.
The idea is quite simple: develop a saucer-shaped vessel with cannons round the perimiter capable of firing small nuclear shells ( say 25ktonnes TNT) underneath it.At the base of this "flying saucer" it is proposed that a large heavy blast shield be used for a number of reasons
It would provide a heat shield so it wouldn't simply burn up
It would provide a necessary radiation shield so as to protect the occupants
It would provide a buffer given the correct suspension system so that the entire "saucer" doesn't shake itself (and it's occupants) to destruction.
The idea was to fire 25Ktonne shells 4 times per second below this saucer and use the blast off these shells to propell the object upwards until it reached Earth orbit
The beauty of this idea is that weight and size (unlike chemically driven rockets) is no longer a problem .In fact the bigger and heavier the vessel is, the more efficient it becomes.
The problem in the 60's was radiation leakage into the environment; however since the development of the neutron bomb (which fits into a tank shell) it should be simple to devise a shell which has the nuclear blast with reduced radiation instead of the radiation with reduced blast. Power requirements are no problem whatsoever.Take some heat from the blast shield to power a turbine and generator.
Because weight is no longer a problem the blast shield and entire structure could be made of iron or steel, with a skin thickness of an Earth-bound ship, say 5-10mm.In one fell swoop something the size of the Space Station and weight of a submarine could be sent into orbit a once.
Astronauts would have better protection from space radiation because of the thickness of the skin,
and a trip to Mars with a constant acceleration of 1G would take a matter of weeks instead of a minimum 6 months each way, and no space sickness or depression symptoms associated with it.
Obviously chemically powered landers would need to be used for any Earth or Mars landings, but their size and weight should be insignificant. A "saucer" would never be able to return to Earth, because the blast shield would be too radioactive, so to send it safely out of the way a collision course with the Sun is recommended when the base blast shield is expended.
The cost of such a vessel could be around the same as that of a nuclear powered submarine, which any major power can afford, yet it could mean that nuclear arsenals could be transformed into some use.
Hope this sparks some interest and I would be interested to read some responses.

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Participant

Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3
#1

Is it april fools day again?

07/09/2006 10:20 PM

Sounds like a bizzare idea. I wish i'd seen the discovery show, since this sounds like the proposal is to build something that would shield the craft and focus the blast energy such that it could be used for propolsion. Hmmm, contain a nuclear blast. Sounds anything but inconsequnetial. Did I wake up in the wrong universe today?

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Anonymous Poster
#2

NASA et al

07/09/2006 10:21 PM

Correct me if I am wrong, but one necessary ingredient for an explosion is air, which when rapidly heated forms a blast. No air no blast only heat!

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Anonymous Poster
#14
In reply to #2

Re:NASA et al

07/11/2006 12:34 PM

There are very rapid combustions, they are very similar to explosions and they need oxigen.

There are real explosion, they have all the energy they need in the chemic or in the atomic explosive. An atomic bomb can explode anywere.

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Participant

Join Date: Jul 2006
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#3

4 Blasts? Why go the cheap route?

07/09/2006 10:57 PM

I think that 6 blasts of 16.666 KT per sec would give a much nicer ride don't you?

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Guru

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#4

surely you jest...

07/09/2006 11:18 PM

Perhaps it is my lack of familiarity with the characteristics of nuclear blasts but this smacks me as completely insane. Maybe it's just me.

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Commentator
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#5

space ships

07/09/2006 11:25 PM

space ship why dont we make one out of magnets reverse the polarity so it is expelled from the earth. no pollution we can be attracted by one planet and expelled by others. what do u think

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#6

Loud noises and bad smells...

07/10/2006 4:07 AM

We all know how schoolboys like to make bangs and stinks in chemistry lessons, but this takes the biscuit! Hang on, when even "conventional" rockets fail through ten-cent O-rings bursting and bits falling off...

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#7

Nuclear Rocket

07/10/2006 5:49 AM

Although the original design team of "Project Orion" apparently did contemplate launching the contraption from the ground, I cannot for the life of me see how this could fit into safety and environmental requirements. However, once in outer space, maybe...

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#8

bomb powered flying saucers

07/10/2006 8:40 AM

You're in a mental institution, right?

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#9

It works...people won't like it, but it works

07/10/2006 9:52 AM

This is not a crazy idea, just an idea that would be wildly unpopular because of the visceral dislike most of us have for nuclear explosions. The really tough part of the presentation is where you say,"We're gonna set off a bunch of nuclear bombs to launch this thing into orbit... but they'll be really small ones!!!" If you can get past that slide, you've got a chance. Apparently Freeman Dyson was one of the big brains on this project, which to my mind makes it seem a lot less crazy. I haven't seen the Discovery Channel program, but there's a big out from 2002 that should be avaialable at your local library (Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship, by George Dyson...Freeman's son) I think ground launch would be politically impossible, no matter how remote the location. Apparently one of the original killers of the project is the fact that this approach violates the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Launch from orbit could be doable, though, since the environmental impact should be nonexistent (what's the space equivalent of a treehugger...a vacuumhugger?). I suppose there could be some danger to orbital equipment from EMP, perhaps? I have seen this used in at least one science fiction novel ("Footfall," by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle), and I've read that Arthur C. Clarke considered this propulsion system for the Discovery in "2001." One other interesting tidbit is that apparently part of the original idea for this came from some experiments in which steel spheres were suspended 30 feet from the center of atomic bomb tests. The spheres were later found (I would imagine some distance away) intact, with only a thin layer of metal ablated away from the surface. Kinda cool.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re:It works...people won't like it, but it works

07/10/2006 9:58 AM

Sorry for the typo...it's a BOOK by George Dyson, not a "big." It's not even a big book (about 320 pages), so I'm not sure what my fingers were thinking.

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Participant

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#11

Launch Pad

07/10/2006 10:24 AM

Build a Launch station out in the middle of the Ocean where nobody can get hurt if 6 small nuclear bombs go BOOM at ground zero and I have no prob. with this. The ocean life and activists may not agree with my thoughts, but hey! Then again, large wales with 2 sharkheads as a new marine species doesn't sound good either. I have an excellent location for this project.....the Bermuda Triangle!

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Member

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#12

Glow-Ball Spec

07/10/2006 11:14 AM

Maybe we need to change the site name to "GlowBallSpec"...

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Anonymous Poster
#13

Don't Loose Sight of Real Problem

07/10/2006 12:00 PM

The real change would be the ability to safely launch "heavy objects" into orbit. There is a solution for this problem, this is one idea with inherent flaws, but a step forward. I am completely opposed to nuclear fallout in the ocean, the idea around magnetism is a step, but will require propulsion to break the field, perhaps if intelligent thought is put towards a combination. HERE's a fact: when your above 15% bodyfat you will not sink you will glide the surface. If you can find a way to glide with magnetism, like opposite of the ground on the bottom and then the inverse scenario on the roof of the ship... Keep focused, just not caught up.

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#15

Nuc.s - (No Free Launch)

07/11/2006 8:50 PM

Totally Unsound!
1.A fission bomb requires a critical mass of material, or close to it.
Only a small amount is converted to energy.
The rest is liberally sprinkled about.
Even neglecting the minimum material requred for casings etc.,
you are looking at a radioactive 'spill` of major proportions.

2.While a 'Nuc.` does not require air to explode, transmission of
energy via a blast wave does.
Above the atmosphere the thing simply wouldn't work.

3. At 4/sec. for ~1200 sec.s how many 'shells` do you think would go astray??
There are, in engineering, such things as 'failure rates`, otherwise known as Murphys Law.
We have learned to respect them - the hard way.

I can't believe that even the Discovery Channel got it this wrong.
There was once, a scheme to use small nuc.s for interplanetary journeys,
using the heat to accelerate a working fluid propellant.
I don't recall what became of it.

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