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A Reconnaissance Mission spacecraft ascends out of the upper atmosphere over Mars
Nuclear pulse propulsion spacecraft designed for my Orion’s Arm future history setting. For technical detail on the spacecraft and its mission see my post: Reconnaissance Mission Spacecraft.
Image featured: on Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets site, Project Orion page, under William Black's 3D Orions.
Image is part of a future historical setting, details in my journal entry Orion’s Arm Future History, A Synopsis.
Reconnaissance expeditions fall at +300 years on my future history timeline. A journal post with more detail on this era is to be found here: Martian Earth Return.
A Timeline Graph is to be found here: Timeline.
Stock Resources: Ibitura Lights
Background Photo credit: ESA
Reconnaissance Mission Spacecraft
Reconnaissance Orion Launch Site
In answer to your question, I’m elaborating visually based on Freeman Dyson’s description of how the pulse unit, and the plasma jet generated from its detonation, behaves. According to Dyson:
In space, without an atmosphere to produce a fireball, the pulse unit would only generate about a millisecond of very intense light. In this case the vehicle is climbing out at the very limits of the Martian atmosphere –which might well be considered a near perfect vacuum – after detonation the propellant expands as a jet of plasma, moving at some 150 km/sec (300,000 mph) toward the ship. It takes 300 microseconds to complete the trip. During this time the propellant cools to about 10,000 degrees. Within another few hundred milliseconds the propellant cloud hits the pusher plate (or the advancing front of the reflected shockwave produced by the initial collision) and is suddenly recompressed. For less than a millisecond the stagnating propellant reaches a temperature of between 100,000 and 120,000 degrees – about ten times the temperature of the visible surface of the sun, as all of the kinetic energy is converted into heat.
I’m assuming that the superheated plasma would generate a visible glow, which is the flare of light you see here.
In my image Outward Bound I’ve shown the moment of detonation.