In The Jungle, The Space Gun Points Its Mouth At The Sky
July 18, 2014 3:53 AM   Subscribe

Project HARP (not to be confused with HAARP, the perennial favorite of conspiracy theorists) was a joint project between the US and Canadian defence departments to develop a non-rocket spacelaunch system, one designed to fire vehicles above the atmosphere in order to study their re-entry.

HARP used a giant 16-inch naval barrel that was extended to be 40 meters long, situated on Barbados; another gun was placed in Yuma, Arizona. These guns have been the only weapons to ever achieve the Jules Verne dream of firing projectiles into space.

The primary promoter and researcher of the project was the controversial Canadian ballistics engineer Gerald Bull. After HARP was shuttered, Bull went on to work in South Africa and Iraq, convincing Saddam Hussein to fund “Project Babylon”, a 150-meter gun. Bull's work on the “PC-2” supergun was under the condition that he also contribute to the Scud missile project, which raised the ire of intelligence agencies worldwide. In 1990, Bull was assassinated at his home in Brussels, allegedly by Mossad agents. Bull’s life story was covered in the Frontline documentary “Maker of the Supergun”, and dramatized in “Doomsday Gun”.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul (7 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Goodness, it's a real cannon, scary. My first thought at the headline was someone was building a rail gun to send supplies into orbit. An electric powered rail gun the side of a mountain on the equator always seemed like an idea that should be considered.
posted by sammyo at 4:42 AM on July 18, 2014

The Frontline doc is amazing, his story is one of the few, classic "scientist's ideas are dismissed so he uses his talents for evil" in real life. Though, at the time he started designing artillery for Iraq, Dick Cheney was shaking Saddam Husein's hand, he was ended up on the losing side of history.
posted by 445supermag at 6:28 AM on July 18, 2014

Watching Doomsday Gun as a kid was one of the many things that sparked my interest in engineering. "We'll make a condom for the barrel!"
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:37 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

those ruin porn pics of the cannon in the first link are so delicious
posted by rebent at 7:10 AM on July 18, 2014

Might I suggest Tobias Buckell's Hurricane Fever for those who'd like some HARP in their science fiction?
posted by MartinWisse at 7:21 AM on July 18, 2014

If the only guy you can establish a personal rapport with is Saddam Hussein, something may have gone wrong for you.

Also how do you shoot a guy five times in the back of the neck? How big was his neck? Jesus.
posted by selfnoise at 7:53 AM on July 18, 2014

Dr. John Hunter is trying to make this a reality. Here's a talk he did at Google and a Spaceshow interview.
posted by Sophont at 1:20 PM on July 18, 2014

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