Encyclopedia Astronautica
Orion Planetary



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Orion Versions
Saturn V-launched Orion; Original Orion
American nuclear pulse orbital launch vehicle. The baseline planetary version of Orion would have launched from the earth's surface. It would have been bullet-shaped, 41 m in diameter and about 50 m high.

Launch would have been from the Atomic Energy Commission test site at Jackass Flats, Nevada. Initially 0.1 kiloton bombs would have been exploded behind the pusher plate at one second intervals. Once clear of the earth's atmosphere and radiation belts this would gradually increase until 20 kiloton bombs would be ignited every ten seconds. The 10,000 tonne ship would hold 2000 bombs and have a net payload of several thousand tonnes, sufficient to house a crew of 150 in comfort.

The rocket would have had an exhaust velocity of 3000 seconds and be able to make the round trip to Mars in two years. Jupiter or Saturn would take only three years round trip. On a Jupiter voyage the approach velocity would be 67 km/sec and the braking manoeuvre would take only 1000 seconds. The voyage could be made even shorter if the ship would refuel with propellant at Callisto - water or frozen methane or almost any available ice could be used.

Status: Design 1960.
Gross mass: 10,000,000 kg (22,000,000 lb).

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See also
  • Orion Nuclear-pulse drive launch vehicle seriously developed by General Atomics in the United States from 1955-1965. The design allowed vast payloads of hundreds of tons to be hurled to the planets. By 1958 the Orion team saw themselves in direct competition with Von Braun's chemical rockets. They hoped to a land a huge manned expedition on Mars by 1964 and tour the moons of Saturn by 1970. However politically NASA would not argue for the exception to the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty necessary to allow firing of nuclear explosions in space. More...

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