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    Project Orion - what is it?

    Monday, July 8, 2019 Last Updated 2020-02-23T17:07:27Z
    Space travel requires a lot of resources, so we are always on the lookout for new potential sources of energy better than what we already have.

    Back in the 1950s, it seemed like nothing was more powerful than the atomic bomb. An ongoing effort sought new uses for this incredible source of energy that weren’t as destructive as its main purpose.

    Maybe it could be used to power a spacecraft?The idea of nuclear pulse propulsion was developed by physicists Ted Taylor and Freeman Dyson.

    They worked on their plan, named Project Orion, to develop a way of propelling a spacecraft using a series of atomic bomb detonations behind it.

    The concept of a nuclear drive was not a new one. This idea had been previously explored by Stanislaw Ulam, a Polish-American mathematician who took part in the Manhattan Project.Work on the project started in 1958.

    Back then, NASA didn’t exist yet, so Project Orion was funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense, which only had a passing interest.

    When NASA was established, it and the Air Force divided up ARPA’s projects, with Orion left out in the cold, as nobody saw it as an asset.

    It would be a few years before NASA got involved, but by then, the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 on nuclear weapons made it impossible for Orion to develop, given the large amounts of potential nuclear fallout.

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