Propulsion of space ships by nuclear explosion

Research paper by J. G. Linhart, J. Kravárik

Indexed on: 01 Jan '05Published on: 01 Jan '05Published in: Cosmic Research


Recent progress in the research on deuterium-tritium (D-T) inertially confined microexplosions encourages one to reconsider the nuclear propulsion of spaceships based on the concept originally proposed in the Orion project. We discuss first the acceleration of medium-sized spaceships by D-T explosions whose output is in the range of 0.1–10 t of TNT. The launching of such a ship into an Earth orbit or beyond by a large nuclear explosion in an underground cavity is sketched out in the second section of the paper, and finally we consider a hypothetical Mars mission based on these concepts. In the conclusion it is argued that propulsion based on the Orion concept only is not the best method for interplanetary travel owing to the very large number of nuclear explosion required. A combination of a super gun and subsequent rocket propulsion using advanced chemical fuels appears to be the best solution for space flights of the near future.