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Where could we launch Orion? Hypothetical launch sites for Nuclear Pulse Propulsion Spacecraft.

chimeric oncogene

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While most proposals for Orion ground launches have included chemical first stages of some from, the most efficient way to launch an Orion appears to be from the ground. This is obviously impracticable under current political climates and cost-effectiveness calculi, but a man can dream...

A brief overview of the internet gives the suggestion that ground launches of Orion were envisaged to occur at the Nevada Test Site, possibly with a graphite-lined pad of some sort. Other options might have been the mid-Pacific: Johnston Island, where a permanent high-yield test site was planned (and where the Starfish Prime shots were launched) or Bikini Atoll/Eniwetok (high-yield nuclear test sites) Had the Soviets built Project Orion, one could envisage them launching from a new pad at the Cosmodrome, somewhere in Kazakhstan, or from Novaya Zemlya (the weather will screw with launch schedules).

The most obvious selection criteria for a launch site include low population, proximity to the ocean (maybe), high latitude (maybe), and good, predictable weather.

Little needs to be said about low population density along the launch track, except that Castle Bravo’s 15-megaton fallout plume was 500km long, and that Las Vegas is 100km from the Nevada Test Site (where low yield weapons similar to those used by Orion were tested). The exclusion zone should be similar in scale to Nevada, and the dispersion of fallout in the upper atmosphere and use of pad coatings should minimize fallout. Launch over unpopulated territory is still desirable to minimize eye injuries and minimize the hazards resulting from a launch failure (ditching a thousand pulse units into deep ocean for recovery is relatively simple, ditching into Arizona or detonating in-flight over Texas is more complex).

Given that Orion construction was envisaged as similar to shipbuilding (I'll believe it when I see it) and given the modern tendency to site large factories in populated areas, an oceanic or coastal launch site appears to have some advantages. At any rate, shipping a 5,000-to-50,000-tonne spacecraft (100-meter pusher plate) from Norfolk (or Korea, or Japan) to the launch site by some sort of ship lifter might be easier than moving the blasted thing cross-country by rail (or assembling it at the launch site). Johnston Atoll may be easier to get to from Norfolk than central Nevada.

Atomic Rockets claims that high-latitude high-inclination launches to avoid injecting material into the Earth's radiation belts are a good idea; while individual 0.5-30kt pulse units will certainly be smaller than the megaton-yield Starfish Prime shots, Orion envisaged using hundreds of pulse units to reach orbit. The total kilotonnage is comparable. HiVOLT and other electromagnetic tether systems have been suggested to clear the Van Allen belts, but I know not whether they would readily solve the problem.

Good weather and predictable winds are desirable for space launches, nuclear tests, and easy ground operations. The Aleutian Islands and Antarctic coasts may be a high-latitude launch site, but both have terrible weather (and the Aleutians are not outside the “will charge the Van Allens” zone, for some reason).

Some other suggestions on my part include:
  • The Auckland Islands off the southern coast of New Zealand (weather and ease of access)
  • The Falklands/South Georgia (weather)
  • Hudson Bay (weather)
  • the coast of Alaska (weather)
 
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Michel Van

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General Atomic consider the "Jackass Flats" as Launch site for a ground Start Orion
Ironic later AEC tested there NERVA engines here.
Also consider General Atomic Orion launch from swimming platforms

For most Lofter proposal (USAF) and Orbital assembly Orion (NASA)
consider existing launch site like Cape Kennedy or Vandenberg
 

RanulfC

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The system is defined these days as "External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion, EPPP" (EP3 from now on) since "Orion" has been stolen :) And yes due to the numerous issues of detonating multiple nuclear explosives low in the atmosphere/magnitosphere it is disirable to have an alternative means of getting such a vehicle into low Earth orbit, there is the conundrum due to it being actually vastly cheaper and easier to build such a vehicle on Earth and then launching it into orbit. And it's not like people have forgotten about the idea either :)

Work has continued since Orion with projects such as Medusa and Gabriel, (the latter in the context of an EP3 propelled asteroid defense system) which generated the following study:

Which discuss' the "Earth-to-Orbit Challenge" in terms of getting an EP3 vehicle into orbit without resorting to nuclear pulse charges. Oddly enough it discuss' the idea of "beamed propellant" in the form of charges shot into the plate from a ground based system. While one might assume this would mean firing nuclear pulse charges from the ground in fact the suggestion is alternative pulse charges such as super/ultra-chemical-explosives among others. While 'normal' explosives such as TNT would be pretty unsuited for such charges it turns out that some other compounds which are not used as 'normal' explosives for various reasons, (long-term stability problems for example) can in fact be considered for use. There is also, if one accepts that the crew and vehicle can and maybe should be delivered by seperate means, the idea of the "Nuclear Verne Gun" option (http://www.kschroeder.com/weblog/the-verne-gun) which would 'shoot' an EP3 into oribt fully loaded where the crew would rendezvous with it later. (This option has been heavily considered for the Gabrial defense system since it would allow a rather 'rapid' response for such uses among other reasons) On the other hand it was pointed out to me at one time that while the idea of the NVG being used at sea (https://www.geek.com/geek-cetera/underwater-nuclear-cannons-might-launch-the-first-lunar-city-on-the-moon-1299279/) that if one actually had a tube going deep enough in the ocean simply uncorking the bottom and letting the pressure equalize could, (in theory) get you to orbital velocity without using a nuke.

Actually launching an Orion-drive from the surface of the Earth has been pretty solidly addressed by artist William Black, (http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/artgallery.php#WilliamBlack) for requirements and effects. It's not "easy" nor likely to be 'cheap' but if you absolutly need a LOT of payload in space in a short time...

Randy
 

Archibald

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Hazegrayart is a gifted CGI genius and he did that little wonder, two years ago. Note the Saturn S-IC stage.


As for me, I downloaded it (for my personal use only) and put AC/DC Thunderstruck as background music. Crazy music for a terrific concept, the two just fit together.
 

Orionblamblam

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If you wanted to ground-launch an Orion, probably the best approach would be to launch from water. The Orion would be supported a few dozen meters above the waters surface by a number (minimum three, likely six) of pylons that support the outer rim of the pusher plate. A small nuclear device would be set off from just above the surface of the water, centered between the pylons. Milliseconds before detonation, extremely high water flow would be pumped through the pylons and emitted from them at many points, turning each into a "water bird." The water would shield the pylons from the worst of the flash.

If need be, the pylons might be slathered over with some sort of ablative between each launch.

The water could be anywhere from a few dozen meters deep to kilometers deep. It would of course be easier to build the strucutre firmly if it was located just offshore in shallow water; but another approach might be to have the whole structure be a massive barge designed to largely submerge just before launch. After sheddign the weight of the Orion, it would easily bob back up to the surface.
 

RanulfC

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Hazegrayart is a gifted CGI genius and he did that little wonder, two years ago. Note the Saturn S-IC stage.
Nice :)

As for me, I downloaded it (for my personal use only) and put AC/DC Thunderstruck as background music. Crazy music for a terrific concept, the two just fit together.
That sounds awsome, or sounds like it would sound awsome, or some combination of "sound" and "awsome" :)

Randy
 

Archibald

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I need to put these videos online, but not on Youtube, to respect Hazegrayart and only to link them to some forums like here.

My 5-years old kid is a die-hard fan of the video and AC/DC altogether. Thunderstruck drives him crazy, LMAO.


By some astounding coincidence, in my video the start of the S-IC happens exactly as the same time as the first THUN-DER at 0:29 in the above video. What's more, listen to the battery at 1:54 bam, bam, bam, bam, bam : at this very point in the video, it matches the nuclear pulses at 1:47.
AC/DC and nuclear pulse just get married. Geez.

EDIT: this little conversation gave me the motivation to create a video account, not on Youtube but on Vimeo. I'll soon start dowloading all the videos I've done. Done is not the proper word, I just like marrying a video I like with some Pop music I like. It is pretty fun to match the two.
 
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