COULD IRAN BUILD A NUCLEAR SPACESHIP?

Originally Published Through Yahoo Voices

If Iran is serious about building a clandestine nuclear weapon facility, then they would most certainly be targeting very small devices, ones which could be tank-launched, if not smaller. These are perfect for an Orion-class spacecraft.

A brief history: Project Orion was developed in the 1950’s as a means of Peaceful Nuclear weapon usage. An Orion pulsed nuclear rocket uses a large number of very small nuclear explosives to push the rocket up like an immense pogo stick, each one detonating to push the vessel faster before the next release and detonation to increase speed and altitude.

With Economic Sanctions being layered upon the reclusive country in an effort to force Iran to declare if they are or are not pursuing a Nuclear weapons program, the country is being squeezed heavily by external forces to crumble, or explain itself in excruciating detail as to it’s nuclear program.

Iran has already proven it can be militarily self-sufficient by building and entering into active service various vessels including submarines and light frigates. It also produces Oil Tankers, Liquid Natural Gas carriers, Cruise Ships and various other freighters and commercial vessels. This technology and capability can easily be turned around to produce pressure hulls capable of holding up in vacuum and orbital space.

In a lot of ways, the severe economic sanctions are not really hurting the country, but are simply forcing it’s nearly 80 million inhabitants to rely entirely upon their own means and not on other countries to do the work for them.

To Build a spaceship like an Orion class nuclear vessel, it will take highly skilled tradesmen such as welders to build the pressure vessels needed to take the abuse of 5-8000 repeated hammer-like impacts along the weld lines from the repeated blasts and not to fracture. To make such a vessel will take skills similar to those required to make a deep diving submarine, so the ability to build a submarine is a tremendous benefit to a nascent program.

The information about Orion has become publicly available, and although deep details on the program are still classified, there is much that has become declassified and which can be used to extrapolate or develop the missing information. It is also not beyond the scope of imagination to understand that Iran, although it is isolated, is among the highest innovators in the world, in part due to it’s intense isolation.

A large amount of development work on a super-heavy lift spacecraft such as Orion is simply brute-force mechanics, combined with high tech electronics and hydraulics. The nuclear component of Orion really is a very small part of the overall picture, but in a lot of ways, it is a cheap alternative to do a massive space launch compared to conventional throwaway rockets that most nations pursue.

The main development phase of an Orion ship would be to build the main body of the vehicle and the pogo-style pusher plate and it’s massive 2 or 3 phase hydraulic ram arms that would absorb the explosive impact of the nuclear blast and convert that into relatively smooth kinetic energy to keep propelling the vehicle away from the nuclear fireball at ever-increasing speeds.

For those who think that there is no way a nuclear explosive could be used to propel a spacecraft due to the very fact that it is explosive, think about this:

Nuclear devices can be tuned or adjusted to explode in various ways, including a means to develop a plasma cloud rather than a radioactive debris cloud.

Nuclear devices can be built very small, the US tested a nuclear device known as the W54 which had a minimum explosive yield of only 10 tons, which is around 4 times more powerful than the explosive used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bomb.

These W54 devices were cylinders that weighed 50 pounds and were 11″ in diameter and about 16″ long. A fully working nuclear explosive in a package small enough to fit into a backpack.

Orion would use about 800 of these, each one exploding at a yield of about 150 tons, tuned to generate a highly ultraviolet plasma rather than a debris cloud. The method behind the explosive propulsion was simple. Each device would be ejected out the center of the pusher plate. At a distance of about 30 yards, it would detonate. The explosive would have been developed in such a way as to generate a cigar-shaped cloud directed towards the pusher plate, and also set up to generate massive ultraviolet energy plasma rather than hard debris. The plate would be layers of nickel, iron, steel and ceramic coated with thin sheets of molecular graphite. during tests in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was proven that steel spheres coated in graphite would survive the fireball, and nuclear shockwave untouched.

Each explosive would impact the plate, pushing it against the hydraulic rams which would compress in a 4:5 ratio with an additional pressure bag directly behind the pusher plate to also absorb velocity impact. This constant push and release process is very much like a pogo stick, indeed, Project Orion was likened to a Nuclear Pogo Stick concept.

By using specifically designed very small nuclear explosives which are almost too small for even battlefield use, an Orion class vehicle can be lifted to orbit with less fallout and background radiation than any test detonation from any of the nuclear enabled countries. It was estimated, back in the 1960’s, that an Orion launch would add less radiation to the atmosphere than even 1 coal-fired power plant emits in a year. this resulted in an estimation that in regards to radiation and cancer death, an Orion launch would maybe result in 1 extra cancer death a year. Compare this result to the number of people killed each year due to pollution, poor water quality, malnutrition, starvation, car accidents, etc.

It makes sense that if a country such as Iran was to go down this path, it would certainly be in line with their internal methodology of do it big and boldly to prove to the world that Iran does not need the rest of the world, but rather, the rest of the world needs Iran. Although this article is rampant speculation, with little basis in fact of the policies or directive of Iran, it does make one pause for thought that; If the Western World is right and Iran is pursuing the bomb … what are they really planning to do with it?

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