This is the first in a new extended series on Project Orion which will include the large and small Orion's, the USAF military application Orion's, interplanetary exploration spacecraft, and chemical launch vehicles. The military application series will include both real, worked designs, weapons systems, along with speculative designs based on existing studies, along with a full work up of the orbital fleet of nuclear pulse and fleet support spacecraft and stations as the USAF Space Plan 1962 might have required. There will be diagram style images, such as this rendering, along with artistic renders. For full access to the entire series sign up today at WilliamBlack @ Patreon.
Individual full resolution art is available for $10.00, see my profile page for details or write email@example.com
The exploration missions considered in GA-5009 have durations varying from 150 days for a fast Mars round trip to 910 days for an exploration of Jupiter. The more typical Mars and Venus missions varied from 300 to 450 days.
The vehicle is shown ready to depart earth orbit on a 450-day Mars orbital-capture mission, which requires a velocity increment of 72,850 fps for the complete round trip. This configuration carries only 750 kg of destination payload (mapping equipment plus a data-handling and storage system) and therefore will not support a Mars landing.
The two space taxis carried by each vehicle were intended for liaison between vehicles in a two-vehicle convoy and for inspection of the nuclear pulse engine pusher plate between propulsive burns. On most of the configurations they are located atop the personnel accommodations compartment where entrance airlocks protrude from the access-ways. Placing them at this higher location avoids using space required for propellant magazines or external payload on the more heavily loaded vehicles.
The reentry vehicle shown in the illustration is assumed to be capable of a successful earth reentry from an approach speed of 50,000 fps. For this capability it carries 3,000 kg more structure, ablative material, etc., than a similar reentry vehicle intended for a 36,300-fps approach (approximately Apollo reentry speed). Below the reentry vehicle is a stubby maneuver stage (capable of approximately 1,000-fps AV) which (when attached to the vehicle) is used to initiate the reentry.
The payload spine has a minimum length of 12 m (39.4 ft), since this length provides a minimum radius of 50 ft from the normally manned personnel accommodations to the composite CG for artificial gravity purposes. The first designs of this concept during the study had a shorter spine whenever the space required for propellant magazines or external payload permitted and employed a coast-period spine extension to attain the 50-ft minimum radius. Provisions for the extension, however, were estimated to be about as heavy as a longer fixed spine and introduced another reliability problem (the longer spine also provides a radiation shielding advantage because of the increased separation from the pulse source).
Note: Propulsion module is sized for suborbital start-up. Two factors affect propulsion module length and geometry, payload mass and initial thrust. Scott Lowther provides an in-depth description of different boost modes in Aerospace Projects Review ev1n5. I’ve illustrated a Mode I propulsion module (25.9 meters (85 feet) in length, vehicle stack 53 meters (173.8 feet)). In Mode I a single liquid or solid chemical rocket stage (solid rocket launch would require a cluster of large, 156 inch, diameter boosters) would loft the fully loaded crewed Orion onto a suborbital “lob,” to an altitude of about 90 km and velocity of about 900 meters/second. The Orion engine would then either boost the vehicle into orbit or directly onto an interplanetary trajectory.
By the time of this September 1964 study earlier plans for nuclear ground launch of large nuclear pulse spacecraft had been set aside in favor of rocket boosted launch. As Scott Lowther notes, in Aerospace Projects Review ev1n5, studies underway at the time by Boeing and NASA to make the Saturn V first stage fully recoverable/reusable might have made this an economically attractive option. Development of the large 4,000 to 10,000 ton Orion’s was deferred in favor of the lower developmental risk (which came at the greater engineering challenge) of 10, 12, and 20 meter Orion’s. The Convair NEXUS, or a booster of equivalent class, would be required to loft the 20-meter and larger 4,000 tone Orion’s. (Note: the meter designation refers to pusher plate diameter which is how Orion spacecraft are classed.) The political and financial cost of failure with a spacecraft the size of a naval battleship would be high, it made a certain amount of sense to initiate the program with the smaller diameter spacecraft before proceeding to development of the more ambitious vehicles.
In discussion regarding this post Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets, pointed me to this page, 10-Meter Mars Mission, which links to a study by Paul R. Shipps Manned Planetary Exploration Capability Using Nuclear Pulse Propulsion. Basically it shows how an Orion-powered Mars mission is so superior to a chemically powered mission that it just isn't funny.
20-Meter Orion Jupiter Moon Landing Mission
Nuclear Pulse Engine Operation Diagram
A few days ago Mhvost posted a comment claiming this Orion had no pulse unit projection tube opening in the pusher plate, it's there on the model, in the center of the pusher, hidden by the second stage center shock absorber in this camera view. After I gave him the following link to the WIP posted December 15, 2016 on my Patreon, showing the pusher plate and the pulse unit projection tube he withdrew his comment. To set the record straight here is the WIP. same propulsion module with a different modular payload WIP USAF 10-Meter Orion Note the lower right corner image, a camera view shot from behind the pusher plate showing the pulse unit projection tube.
Today I caught this same individual posting misleading comments on my Nuclear Pulse Engine Operation Diagram and he has now been banned from my pages.
I use many of his works to illustrate various concepts.
And I have a small gallery of his older artworks here www.projectrho.com/public_html… which comes with an automatic Atomic Rockets Seal of Approval due to his craftsman's eye and fine attention to scientific details.
For me it is rather hard to find sources of engineering inspiration amongst the bulk of inaccurate aesthetically-oriented (only) concepts. Though even more - I am guilty to do these too, though for purely gaming experience, as a habit and skill-polishing.
But thanking to people like you two and many others I can have a steady income of facts, ideas, concepts that are beautiful because they make sense, and so on.
But after all spacecrafts are only sophisticated means, just like aircrafts, just like everything else. The goals shape and form them, but defining a plausible near-future space related goal, personally for me, is very hard. Because space is so boundless that it makes me want to seek the most ultimate reachable goal out there, skipping smaller stages. From the other hand, it is not easy to attempt to contribute to the future one might not see with own eyes, or that might not exist at all.
Spacecrafts are the kind of concepts that make me think more about our present, about what the humanity is, what is it capable of and why Clarke's 2001 hasn't came to life yet, and I think about it more than about how to design, or construct, or how to possibly fund a spacecraft... I can't even get down to a rough concept. From one hand it is too much freedom for imagination, but from the other hand there is reality which is clearly not about freedom in at least this space-related case.
I am not sure why have I written the above, but while I did it I have re-thought it all again. It helps shaping mind and making order in thoughts.
I can sum it up as that I am happy that there are people like William and you who go easy on these thoughts and just do the art. I enjoy doing art (studying, projects, science, you name it) more than anything else and I wish everyone to have as less limitations as possible when it comes to this.
So, thanks again for all the great images you create.
I'm glad you like the work and there are a number of interesting projects in the pipeline. I'll be going through all of the Project Orion material and alongside that there is an ongoing Space Tug series in process. Winchell Chung and I along with David S.F. Portree have amassed several thousand pages of NASA technical reports, there are a staggering number of vehicle concepts from Boeing, North American Rockwell, and McDonnell Douglas, these range from space tugs to lunar landers, and not many have seen the light of day. I'm also in process on early space stations and early space shuttle art. I'll be doing the NAA DC-3 shuttle and manned fly-back booster along with the Boeing 60-man space base, and the modular low Earth orbit and Lunar orbit space stations.
I've been fortunate to work with people like Tom Peters over the years, who also does some excellent "how space exploration SHOULD have been" kind of pieces.
Are your models for sale anywhere? They are just plain wonderful.
Nuclear pulse propulsion has never been taken off the table as a candidate for future development. Assuredly this will be as a interplanetary propulsion system, for use above GEO only. It is presently slated for development somewhere in the 2050 plus time frame, in at least one table of future projects I've seen, this one was endorsed by the Planetary Society.
NASA has never closed the books on Orion, because, while numerous high efficiency propulsion-system concepts have been studied, none deliver the combination of high thrust and high Isp as Orion. No other propulsion-system technology, of equal performance, is immediately within our technological capabilities. The two propulsion concepts that can deliver near-same performance are fusion and anti-matter rockets. Both require advanced magnetic-field containment (plasma-bottles and magnetic-nozzles, which we are still far from realizing.The power requirements for Z-pinch fusion mean a super-heavy rapid-discharge capacitor bank and light-weight power supply. Anti-matter rockets require a means to manufacture anti-matter in quantity cheaply, along with the magnetic-field management required for containment and magnetic nozzles. The development-path for these systems is currently at 150+ years. We could build and operate Orion today with existing technology.
In the video presentation USAF Space Plan 1962 Dr. Ziarnick mentioned work being done to create what he called nano-enhanced conventional explosives that could deliver the kiloton yield impulse of Orion's pulse-units. With such explosives we could build the 4,000 and 10,000 ton ground-launched Orion's and loft them from the Earth's surface without the need for nuclear explosives. This means no fallout concerns.