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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Unmanned 140,000 ton Atomic Spaceship Launch For £650 million in 2 Years

   This an old article from Next Big Future detailing a proposal for a cheap and not dirty version of the Orion atomic rocket. Unlike the original version it launches at a peak acceleration (probably for under a second) of 1,000 G. So it is only suitable for launching raw materials or simple parts. But it can launch a lot of them.

    The secret is to launch it from a really deep hole in the ground. Thus the blast is funnelled up, under the craft all the way to the surface. Thus also, by putting a closable cover over the top the radiation (of only 1 nuke) is contained.

A 10 megaton nuke (large but we have quite a few) can launch 140,000 tons

 Summary *This is a modification of the old underground nuclear tests. Repeating the old 5-10 megaton tests. But reconfigure to optimize conversion to kinetic energy. Radiation containment for underground tests is a known problem and has proven tests.
* The Project Orion configuration and directed nuclear blasts had the Orion work and the Casaba-Howitzer work. So 85% conversion of nuclear explosion to directed propulsion is known.
* Sacrifice one salt dome or an area under an island. Using natural geological feature mostly reduces cost of containment.
* Actual out of pocket cost less than one billion. (£650 million) Can be done within 2 years.
* Can do some supercomputer modeling and tweaking and optimization to be sure.
* Very limited technical risk for the launch. Nuclear bombs work.
* Leverages the trillions spent on the arms race for good. (sunk costs)
* Negotiate for the exception to the test Threshold test ban and only ratify the Comprehensive test ban with an exception for space launches. Maybe allow Russia, China, UK and France and other to share the payload that is delivered or for each to be allowed to launch one.

This proposal is simpler, cheaper and safer than Project Orion. The proposal is not to build a manned space vehicle but an unmanned projectile that contains cargo. There are not two hundred atmospheric explosions but one underground explosion. the pusher plate does not need to withstand multiple explosions but survive one while not losing the cargo. The cargo is selected and designed to survive the forces that it will encounter.

There are petaflop class supercomputers now that were built for the sole purpose of modeling nuclear explosions in a precise way as an alternative to live tests. There are powerful lasers and other high energy machines created to validate the precision of the computer models.


 The Pascal A nuclear test "launched" a blast door at six times earth escape velocity.

" it would seem that it would have to be on the order of 10,000 gs, which is getting pretty extreme for the delivery of any interesting cargo other than fuel. Or am I wrong?                 

You are correct. The acceleration is extreme. But I would argue that being able to deliver refined metal, water, fuel and other material that can take the acceleration is worthwhile if it can be done cheap enough $1-20/kilogram.Water and fuel and food are heavy supplies that a colony would need.
Water and fuel and metal are needed for industrial projects. Nasa Constellation plan is to spend $20+ billion developing a 125 ton to LEO chemical rocket that could deliver about 10 tons to the moon."
    So only as part of an existing space development programme able to machine

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