Encyclopedia Astronautica
Orion Hot Rod

American nuclear pulse test vehicle. The modified test article for Project Orion had a total mass of 105 kg. The outer shell and upper shock absorber of the original design were deleted and a parachute recovery system added.

Six aluminium-encased charges, each with 1.04 kg of C4 high explosive, were ejected from the rear of the pusher plate and exploded 866 mm behind the plate over a 35 second period. An initial charge of 452 kg of gunpowder in a mortar-like launch cylinder got the craft going. The hot rod successfully achieved stable acceleration and reached an altitude of 105 m on 12 November 1959 from Point Loma California. This proved the concept of the larger nuclear-powered design.

Gross mass: 105 kg (231 lb).
Height: 1.50 m (4.90 ft).
Diameter: 1.00 m (3.20 ft).

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  • 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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