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On Orbit



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Nuclear pulse propulsion Mars mission spacecraft in LEO.

Image featured: on Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets site, Project Orion page, under William Black's 3D Orions.

Circa 1964 Nuclear Pulse Propulsion Mars mission spacecraft modeled in high detail from specifications in Nuclear Pulse Space Vehicle Study GA-5009, Vol. III – Conceptual Vehicle Designs and Operational Systems, PDF here: GA-5009 vol III (PDF), prepared at General Atomics John Jay Hopkins Laboratory for Pure and Applied Science for George C. Marshall Space Flight Center’s Future Projects Office.

This is the NASA Interplanetary Exploration version of Orion, greatly scaled down from the 4,000 ton Earth surface launched General Atomics reference design, manned by a crew of 200, which would have been capable of reaching Mars in four weeks and orbiting Saturn’s moon Enceladus in seven months.

Here, two spacecraft imaged on orbit, immediately prior to departure. Within the bi-level shielded powered-flight station aboard each spacecraft the eight man crew performs final system checks prior to firing the 10-meter nuclear pulse propulsion system for a 72,850 fps trans-Martian burn, departing Earth orbit on a 450-day Mars mission.

The spacecraft are 160 feet long with a departure weight of 1,633,625 pounds.

Each spacecraft carries three 2-man MEM’s (Mars Excursion Modules), mounted inside protective canisters, along with an Earth return capsule and its maneuver-stage. Mounted adjacent to the powered-flight station, above the crew-habitat, each vehicle carries two, 2-man, pods used for close in post-burn visual inspection of the pusher-plate and shock-absorber system, as well as lesion between the spacecraft in flight. In the event of a failure of one vehicle the 2-man pods would be used to evacuate the crew to the surviving spacecraft.

In transit the spacecraft would rotate end-over end around their short-axis in order to generate centrifugal gravity.
The powered-flight station of each vehicle (the uppermost portion of the spacecraft) is outfitted as solar storm shelter with 90-day emergency supplies and fitted with escape-motors so that in the event of system-failure it can cast-off from the main vehicle, acting as a life boat, the mission-abort escape vehicle has a post-escape 2,000 fps ΔV maneuver capability.

GA-5009, Vol. III is one of the final reports on Orion, 174 pages of exhaustive technical detail, vehicle concept diagrams, and detailed nuclear pulse propulsion reference missions for 8-man, 20-man, and 50-man Mars and Jovan explorations (as well as, interestingly, a 1 million pound payload nuclear pulse Earth orbit to lunar surface ferry). Because these are conceptual vehicle designs some minor details are discussed in the technical data, but left off the diagrams – I’ve added these details to the model as logic dictates. Added detail includes the high-gain dish antenna, a docking node for the returning MEM’s (sourced from NASA’s 3D model archive, this is the same pressurized mating adapter used on the ISS) and a protective bay containing the Earth return capsule mated to its Earth approach maneuver stage.

Pressurized-mating-adapter 3ds file courtesy of NASA 3D model Archive.

Earth back-drop courtesy NASA/JPL.

Related Image:

Orion: In Flight
Image size
4000x4000px 1.94 MB
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This is cool as fuck.

I wonder if you could use an Orion drive as a space-to-ground kinetic weapon? Set off a couple small bombs and you have the power of a big bomb. If it's unmanned you wouldn't need as much heat dispersal or radiation protection.