September 03, 2018

Oddly Enough, I have Mixed Emotions About This Headline

Orion Space Battleships Could Still be Built in a Nuclear Space Race

An Orion Spaceship, albeit not a battleship drawn by Adrian Mann

Next Big Future gives a concise overview of the Orion Project, though aside from the headline no explanation for why the political hurdles to nuclear pulsed propulsion might be overcome.  

Note that as I type this, the post over there seems to stop in mid-sentence while discussing Casaba Howitzers.

As for the mixed emotions, while space warships propelled by exploding A-bombs firing nuclear shaped charges at one another is...concerning, nuclear pulse propulsion is a well understood and technologically conservative way to allow high speeds and vast payloads in spacecraft. 

Two 1960s NASA Orion designs, art by William Black.

It's about the only propulsion system we could build right now that would allow manned interstellar travel . Nuclear pulse propulsion allows up to 10% light speed in some advanced concepts but even the versions worked out in the 1960s still allowed travel to the 15 or so nearest stars in 1 to 2 centuries. 

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