AKA "Ol' Boom-Boom".
When you get into space, you're going to need some kind of drive to make moving around easier. If you can't get Artificial Gravity
to work your Reactionless Drive
, perhaps you need to look at something simpler. Preferably with lots of explosions
. You might consider implementing an Orion Drive
, an old project that was thought up during the Cold War
. Explosive Propulsion
meets nuclear weapons, you've got the potential to move much larger ships than normal. The researchers working on this project tended to include things like barber's chairs in their ship designs just to emphasize how much mass they could move.
A basic Orion Drive is composed of a Cool Ship
, a large armor plate, and enough high yield weapons to set it in motion. They don't necessarily have to be nuclear,
but they need to have the equivalent explosive power. A common variant is to have the explosive material be smaller pellets of frozen deuterium-tritium mix, which would then be induced into nuclear fusion by a laser; this is essentially an H-bomb without having to use an A-bomb to set it off.
While this may all sound like madness, scale-model tests with conventional explosives have established that the design is perfectly workable. The main obstacle to actually building
one of these is the logistics of lifting the components into orbit, since for reasons that probably need little elaboration, nuclear detonations inside the planet's atmosphere are depreciated these days.
A common form of harder scifi
propulsion systems. See also Explosion Propulsion
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Anime and Manga
- On several occasions, in the UC Gundam Series, some types of Propulsion systems are called "Nuclear Drives", for example the propulsion systems of the AXIS Asteroid.
- Atomic Robo has an Orion Drive based ship appear in Volume 6. Developed in secret, its planned launch is the driving force of the plot to kill Robo, as its launch would cause enough radioactive fallout to wipe out all life on Earth, leaving Robo as the last survivor, who would then almost certainly chase after it.
- The rocket designed by Professor Calculus in the Tintin comics, "Destination Moon" and "Explorers On The Moon", is propelled by slow-detonating nuclear fission explosions. The engine is made of "calculon", a silicon-based material that was invented by Calculus to withstand the radiation and extreme heat created by the explosions. The rocket also has chemical-fuelled rocket engines so that it can take off and land without polluting the surroundings with deadly nuclear fallout.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky": features a generation ship, constructed out of a hollowed-out iron asteroid, propelled using "Orion class nuclear pulse engines" in which fission bombs were detonated in shafts. It appeared to have been traveling for about 10,000 years, and had traveled about 30 light years on its own power.
- Virtuality: Phaeton (Earth's first starship) is propelled by an Orion drive.
- In an episode of Space: 1999 titled "Voyager's Return," there was a nuclear pulse-drive probe called Voyager One. The dangerous nature of its drive is a plot point.
- Mentioned in Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, as one possible design for a ship capable of crossing interstellar distances, along with the Daedalus (see below).
- In the National Geographic Channel special "Evacuation Earth" project Ark chose an Orion Drive for their Generation Ship as the only feasible means of reaching another system. A private rival project attempted an antimatter drive, but it exploded on the launchpad.
- The namesake Generation Ship in the miniseries Ascension is (ostensibly) powered by this.
- Alpha Centauri, the sleeper ship is propelled by an Orion-type drive (probably the laser-fusion variant), the shield of which fails (almost certainly due to sabotage—the ship's captain was also assassinated at the same time) when the ship is almost at its destination, causing the passengers on the colony ship to splinter into factions.
- Cracked.com mentions it in their article about space travel here.
- Orion Drive ships are used by all three major factions (the British Empire, the Russians and the Chinese) in the "Monarchy World" Alternate History by Tony Jones. They are launched from zones in each empire which were already radioactively contaminated by earlier nuclear disasters, so further contamination doesn't matter so much.
- Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. The military calls them in to investigate the theft of components to an Orion Drive. Kevin immediately deduces that it's a nuclear bomb.
- Project Orion, the Trope Namer, which actually happened — although they never went full-scale for obvious reasons. The project eventually got canceled by an international treaty banning nuclear explosions in space.
- The treaty only actually bans nuclear weapons in space. Peaceful uses of nuclear explosions are not ruled out, which will be good news if we ever have to move any asteroid out of Earth-colliding orbits...
- Project Daedalus, which was a conceptual design thought up by the British Interplanetary Society, which wasn't worked upon since it's not yet possible. Instead of bombs, it would use a less hamfisted approach, with lasers being focused on small deuterium-tritium pellets to create small fusion detonations - a process which is indeed being studied as a means of peacefully harnessing fusion energy - but the basic idea of using pulsed explosions remains the same.
- Project Longshot, which was basically Project Daedalus if it were (A) allowed to decelerate on the way in to Alpha Centauri, and (B) more realistic about the difficulties of using engine power to run its own electrical systems.
- Allegedly, the unexpected firing of a 900kg steel lid from the top of a nuclear test chamber into the sky at 60km/s was inspiration for some of the Orion design. If it survived its flight it would have been the first (and only) nuclear launched man made object in space. It probably burnt up before it exited the atmosphere though.
- The Medusa spacecraft design, brought to you by the same folk who dreamed up the Daedalus above, was a 90s update that was effectively a nuclear sail. The design would be lighter and more efficient than an Orion-based ship.
- Lew Allen's Balls were the original inspiration for Project Orion. They were used to test the effects of point-blank nuclear blasts on various materials. Stainless steel balls within a few feet of the detonation point of small test nukes were found, with minimal damage, embedded in the desert floor thousands of feet away. (This began a chain of reasoning about using the shock wave from a nuke as a source of propulsion that ultimately produced the Project Orion proposal.)