Nuclear Pulse Propulsion

Project OrionAs part of a post-Manhattan-Project program of seeking peaceful uses for the technology previously developed for the construction and delivery of nuclear weapons, an informal report authored in August by C.J. Everett and Stanislaw Ulam is distributed from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Atomic Energy Commission and other interested parties on this date. The report outlines a theoretical space propulsion system which would eject and detonate a series of nuclear explosives behind a spacecraft, pushing it forward at high velocity. The suggested spacecraft design would carry a pusher plate and shock-absorber system to minimize the acceleration effects on crew members in a shielded payload section. This is the culmination of a series of ideas Ulam had devised over the past decade, which would theoretically put interplanetary or even interstellar travel within reach. As the space race heats up, Ulam and Everett’s proposal will be revisited and expanded upon, at least on paper; physicist Freeman Dyson, in particular, will spend considerable time and research on what will come to be known as Project Orion (unrelated to the 21st century Orion crewed spacecraft design).