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Could we have a single thread for Orion nuclear pulse spaceship ?


Senior Member
Jun 6, 2006
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Because there is crapload of them scattered all over the forum... (there goes this forum moderator team weekend - evil grin)

Let's start from this...

And this amazing document from 1961

I just realized something... Smart rocks, Brilliant Pebbles: kinetic ABM interceptors. They were not invented in 1983 for SDI. Rather by ARPA in 1958 for DEFENDER / BAMBI.
And so, in the document above, they proposed to launch and deploy, up to the Moon, a colossal kinetic ABM shield, ancestor of the Brilliant Pebbles... using Orion NPP ?
Basically "kinetic ABM needs 100 000 interceptors. Launching such a fleet with chemical rockets - will bankrupt us.
By contrast Orion NPP
a) launch the entire fleet without breaking a sweat
b) can travel easily from LEO to GEO to cislunar space, once again without breaking a sweat"


My mind is blown. I had never quite understood WTH Strategic Air Command Lemay Tommy Power intended to do with "fleets of space battleships".
Now I understand better. Grand scale, kinetic SDI 20 years before Reagan, High Frontier and lasers.
Seems they also piled up onboard that Orion fleet(s) and on top of ABM - ASAT, FOBS - and perhaps spysats, too !
We tend to forgot Orion could lift thousands of tons from Earth surface to Moon surface, "finger in the nose". It was no chemical rocket by any mean...
The whole thing was scary for sure, but those guys thought BIG.


Mar 6, 2009
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Call them crazy, (I know enough people do, but considering in the specific case of Powers/LeMay they literally helped write the requirements for SAC mental health and moral guidelines which neither actually "passed" but were self-aware enough to self-check) but a lot of the big names in pushing for the large, obvious and very, very scary nuclear "deterrent" posture, (and btw that includes "bigger bombs" Teller as well) were convinced if they could make the threat of such weapons every being used terrifying enough then no one would every use them.

Of course the problem is that sooner or later no matter how scary the threat in theory there will eventually come a time when someone, (and likely NOT someone with as good a grip on the reality as they think they have) will ask the question of "yes.. but what if..." and ignore all the answers that don't agree with their already decided bias that the weapons 'could' be used in some 'limited' way.

THE hardest part of the idea of "deterrence", especially with regards to MAD is that everyone from the top-down understands and accepts that ANY use lights off the whole shebang and ANY attempt at moderation or limited use is likely to fail to stay that way. The failing is that as humans and especially leaders there is a tendency to examine and re-examine even the un-thinkable scenarios because that's what our job is as leaders and planners.

SAC's motto was "Peace is our Profession" and they truly and firmly believed that. Peace on Earth or the Peace of the Grave, take your pick but choose wisely :)

I've noted before that while Orion gives us a HUGE amount of options it also opens up some cans of worms that at the time no one was really feeling like risking.



I'm dissatisfied, which means, I exist.
May 30, 2013
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Technically, the kinetic intercept of ICBM was perfectly possible even in 1960s; the task was simple enough. ICBM, boosting from atmosphere is rather easy target - big, vulnerable, and constantly emitting enormous plume of heat. 1960s technology could handle intercept just fine (albeit it would be advisable to increase surface of the interceptor to guarantee a hit - the original BAMBI, if I recall correctly, suggested to use a big net with small lead weights woven in it).