Thursday, December 09, 2010

WTF! Thermonuclear Space Shots?

Since the earliest days of printed and even cinematic science fiction, the thought of gaining access to the heavenly bodies often included in it's arsenal of launch systems, a very large bore cannon. Who among us has not seen, at least partially, men in top hats and tails entering what can only be described as the mother of all artillery shells. Said conveyance is then thrust into the bore (oh yes, I am very aware of what I am typing) of an equally large cannon by a bevy of 20s bathing beauties, to be fired, with rather gruesome effects into the right eye of the man in the moon. (I saw the sequence for the first time as a child only to be horrified as the yokey mess poured from the mutilated eye around our intrepid travelers cannon shell.)

Ahh the good ole days. Romantic or otherwise, ballistic space travel using a cannon or otherwise proved to be impractical in so many ways. So you can well understand my reaction when looking through various news articles, I found myself instead traveling the on-ramp of the magical mushroom mystery motorcade.

This is the article on the Next Big Future site via Dvice blog -Sea Based Launch Option for the Nuclear space launch cannon.

Nope I am not crazy and even Dvice thinks it's only "mostly" crazy. Even Joseph Friedlander, father to this brain child, admits the inspiration came from Vern's gun.

And to prove what comes next is not something I netted from a fever dream, here is an article excerpt:
  • Dig a kilometer deep shaft, at the bottom build a giant cannon shell. Finally, after all is in readiness, pump reaction mass through an access shaft under the (shell) into a prepared chamber and place a thermonuclear explosive device in the midst of the reaction mass.
Surprisingly there are some who don't like this method, something about a smoking, kilometers deep, radioactive hole the launch would leave behind. (I would almost guess that each launch is a one off. Just from the fracturing of the bedrock alone....) And the not so crazy part? Well cost.
Each launch could be 1000 tons plus and with all the cost factored in the cost per pound would be around $100! I wonder if they factored in cleanup? I mean, someone has to back-fill that hole right?

This has got Slim Pickens written all over it huh?

Check out the articles on Dvice & Next Big Future

Dvice article
Nuclear space launch article on Next Big Future


bw said...

Actually the inspiration was Project Orion, nuclear pulsed propulsion and figuring out how to do that without any fallout in the atmosphere. Connecting it to the Verne gun was an afterthought. Friedlander developed the sea based variant of the nuclear cannon and he and I, Brian Wang, have been refining and working out more details on the nuclear cannon systems

Beam Me Up said...

Yep, I saw that in some of the larger article, be fun to see who else might follow that one up. I think I pushed enough buttons, mainly to see how it would spin for Saturday's show.

Its an interesting thought experiment I just can't see public opinion swinging in favor of implementation.

bw said...

I had a better summary - not sure if you saw it and have info addressing someones concern for whales

Suppose the launch tube and setup at sea costs $75 million, and the
Wang Bullet and thermonuclear device all together, including launch
and payload costs $200 million. That is less than a shuttle launch.
But instead of 15 tons to orbit (the equivalent of 3 tons to the Moon)
we are talking probably 1000 tons to the Moon. That is $200000 a ton
to the Moon, or $100 a pound. The benefit would remain very low cost
to launch material and payloads that are resistant to high G forces
and no radiation in the atmosphere and no radiation in the ground. The
sea would disperse the radiation from the underwater explosion.

* The underwater explosion will make it easier to prevent radiation
from getting to the atmosphere.

* Nuclear bombs exist and there is no question that they work and
there are thousands that have built, paid for and in storage

* There were tests which showed that nuclear bombs can launch heavy
metal objects at high speed and the objects survive

* The system is taking material and using a nuclear bomb to provide
the energy to make it into more energetic propellent. Chemical
propellant maxes out at lower speed and energies. Nuclear take the
same chemicals and ups the heat (100 million degrees instead of a few
thousand) for more speed and energy

* the Ocean already contains 3.5 billion tons of Uranium

The current space capability versus the proposed system is the
difference between starting a colony and industry with the supplies you can put in a pickup truck or what you can put into a container ship.

Nuclear effects not getting into the air, what will be in the water is safe, hundreds of times more supplies at one hundred times lower cost for space using technology that exists.

I had to do some research on the safe distance for fish, dolphin and whales. Keeping whales 30-40 miles away should keep them safe.

There have been over 2000 nuclear bomb tests.

Many of them on Atoll and in the Ocean.
Operation Wigwam involved a single test of the Mark 90 Betty nuclear
bomb. It was conducted between Operation Teapot and Operation Redwing on May 14, 1955, about 500 miles southwest of San Diego, California. The test device was suspended by a 2,000 feet (660 meters) cable under
a barge.

30 kiloton device.

Army corp of engineers assessed the impact on marine life.

according to Young, 20-foot whales more than 49,250 feet away would
have had no injuries, and adult porpoises 65,370 feet away would be
unharmed, as well).

There is little published information on the behavioral effects of underwater blasting on marine mammals. Todd et al. (1996) found that humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) showed little behavioral reaction to construction detonations in terms of decreased residency overall movement, or general behavior. However, they found increased entrapment of humpbacks in fishing gear. Exposure to the construction explosions may have affected the hearing threshold of humpbacks, thus decreasing their ability to use net-produced acoustic cues to avoid
net collisions.

the safety zone range for, say, 10-pound fish with swim bladders
around the Wigwam explosion would have been about 107,000 feet. Per
Hill's model (and the example fish used on the cited page), 50% of the
Pacific herring 118,500 feet (over 22 miles) from the explosion would
have been killed (a higher percentage closer, fewer farther).

The document also states that marine life without gas-filled organs (like swim bladders) tolerate explosions fairly well.

Beam Me Up said...

See, it is just this type of information that I love to see. So much policy is set on knee jerk reactionary terms that honest curiosity is often lost. This reply should be an addendum to the article instead of hidden as a reply.

As for using nuclear weapons as power sources of one type or another, I have often thought that the system using them as spacecraft motive and that ilk were an elegant way to use the resource.

Using water as in the reaction chamber for power and also to control over pressure seems obvious plus just plain less costly should be reason enough to warrant investigation.... but its still the people signing the checks that think micro wave "radiation" is radioactive..... and the rest don't realize when you are having sport at their expense....

Beam Me Up said...

and Whales? really? you're kidding...I had better go back over the article and replies... see, what did I tell ya..

I have always said that I am as dumb as a bag of hammers but some of these folk can't seem to figure out if they are bags or hammers...

bw said...

the comment about whales was at