, physicist, nuclear scientist, and designer of the deceptively tiny Davy Crockett nuclear recoilless rifle
, is not quite as famous as one of his other projects: nuclear spacecraft propulsion.
was intended as an interplanetary (and eventually interstellar) vehicle which could achieve Earth orbit with a series of 800 nuclear explosions, each detonated about a second after the other below the spacecraft. It would propel itself through space in a similar fashion, carrying many orders of magnitude more mass than chemical rockets such as the Saturn which would ultimately take men to the moon.
Taylor and others intended a mission to Mars by 1965, but the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963
destroyed all hope to see Orion take flight.
For the interested, "The Curve of Binding Energy"
goes into much more detail, including the U.S. Air Force's plan to turn Orion into a nuclear space battleship (!).
A youtube video of an Orion concept test using conventional explosives is here
(flight footage begins around 0:23).
posted by edguardo
on Feb 1, 2010 -