“Righteous Stuff” update and Nuclear Pulse Rockets

October 13, 2009
Nuclear pulse rocket (I don't have a source for this image)

Nuclear pulse rocket (I don't have a source for this image)

Last weekend I had some free time at Midway on Friday night because my flight was delayed, and some time on Saturday morning before I had to go judge the contest. I have just short of 89,000 words now and a pilot is in the air on a suborbital test right now. You’ve seen 10 chapters out of 39 so far. I expect another 5 or 6 chapters to be written yet to wrap this this up.

This book is conceived as part one of a trilogy that covers the years 1947 to 2000: mainly 1950s in this book, 1960-1980s in the second, and 1980-2000 in the last one. There’s a lot of space development going on in the Domination history during the 1960s and 1970s – space stations, conquest of the Moon and Mars, the beginnings of the asteroid civilization the Alliance creates, the annexation of India by the Domination that includes some high-ground stuff, and my favorite – the first use of Orion-class nuclear pulse rockets.

Yep, the real Orions – the one called  “old bang-bang” by Niven and Pournelle. Make a huge metal plate, put your stuff on top, and throw atomic bombs under it, one at a time. That sucker will move, as Jerry says. (They use it as the Michael in “Footfall.”)

Aldo Spadoni created some great renderings of the Michael that can be found on Scott Lowther’s site,  here:


There are two great sources on the development of the Orion in the 1960s in our timeline. The first is available in several issues of Scott Lowther’s Aerospace Projects Review journal.  (See Volume 1, numbers 4, 5 and 6.) The second is a book by Freeman Dyson’s son, George Dyson, “Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship.” Scott has also created the pattern for a resin model kit of the Orion that will soon be sold by Fantastic Plastic.

Stirling went far beyond the original plans General Atomics made, using deuterium pellets  fused with lasers in later models, and even more exotic versions of the same concept.  We could have been launching hundreds of tons of equipment, men, and machines to the moon, Mars, and the outer planets in the 1960s and 1970s with a single vehicle if we had gone the nuclear pulse propulsion route. There is that little concern about radiation from the launches, but some of Scott’s research shows plans to loft a smaller version on a  Saturn V, keeping any radioactives in space, not on earth.

Anyway, book II wil have a lot to do with the expansion of the Alliance and the Draka into space. And nuclear pulse rockets!


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