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0.5 seconds of nuclear pulse operation.

When you pull the trigger the rockets ignite, the noise and vibration is terrific, even all the way up in the shielded flight station. At engine cut-out, it all stops, instantly, and there is a split second of free-fall in dead silence before the first bomb goes off. Somewhere in that interval the near imperceptible mechanical hum as massive L-6 engines are hauled up into their refrigerated bays, thumps and bangs of ports slamming shut, but all of that is lost in the next instant: with the terrific slam and acceleration as the first bombs detonate. With the pulse units going off at four per second, you’re pressed back in your couch by the acceleration. The plume from lift-off rockets is blasted to a vapor that races across the vast plane of the launch site, dissipating to nothingness in the near vacuum atop Olympus Mons as the vehicle climbs skyward … ”

– from the journal of Captain Stanton Berrett, Pilot and Atomic Rocketeer

Rocket assisted launch to nuclear pulse operational flight.

Ground launch is accomplished via rocket assist, firing four engines. The rockets are a derivative of the Rocketdyne L-6 engine, a six million lbs thrust engine initially developed for the Convair Nexus—lofting the vehicle to an altitude sufficient to avoid damaging the launch pad and to avoid ground-reflection shock waves from the nuclear pulse drive.
 
On engine shutdown the rockets are withdrawn into internal bays, engine ports are sealed, the first-stage shock absorber micrometeorite shield is retracted, the second-stage shock absorbers move to their nuclear pulse start position, and nuclear pulse operation is initiated.

As a spacecraft propulsion system: Orion is incredibly efficient. As with all nuclear propulsion systems certain precautions need be taken, for more information on these see my post Reconnaissance Orion Launch Site, which details risk management of atmospheric nuclear pulse operations.

As a weapons platform: Orion is equally formidable. At the heart of the propulsion system is a gas-pressure-fired cannon capable of firing up to four, 1 ton, nuclear explosive projectiles per second. Reloading at these speeds requires a bundle of ten guns in a rotating breech-loading configuration fed by high-speed conveyor – In essence Orion’s bomb-placement system is a Gatling-gun designed to fire atomic bombs.

While this version of the spacecraft is not weaponized, the system could easily accommodate munitions tailor-made to work in conjunction with Orion’s bomb-firing Gatling-gun.

Casaba-Howitzer Rounds & Drive-Bomb-Pumped X-Ray Lasers 

See Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets site for his page on "Casaba-Howitzer,” charges.

Bundles of drive-bomb-pumped X-ray lasers can be ejected between Orion’s nuclear pulse-units.

For an example of a weaponized Orion see my image: Over Mars.

Image is part of my Orion's Arm future historical setting, see my journal entry Orion’s Arm Future History, A Synopsis.
A Timeline Graph is to be found here: Timeline

Resources:

Lens Flares by Matthew Vogel
Light-Leak Pack by PSD-Box

Related Images:

Reconnaissance Mission Spacecraft

Expedition to Earth

Reconnaissance Orion Launch Site
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