chief Soviet specialist- atom mongers
"A meeting of Party and Goverment Leaders with the Atomic Scientists"-July 10,1961
"In the early '60s, Sakharov, I remember, once invited us into his
office and told us about this idea for an interstellar space ship that
would be propelled through space by micro nuclear explosions. "
Former USSR Minister and current Russian Deputy Minister of Atomic
Energy (MinAtom) Victor Mikhailov recalling discussing nuclear powered
rockets with Andrei Sakharov ca. 1961. From an interview for Nuclear
atom mongers meet as seen at
In the Soviet Union the idea of the use of nuclear charges in space technology was advanced more than 30 years ago. Academician Andrey Saxarov was the initiator of consideration. During July 1961 all chief Soviet specialist- atom mongers obtained urgent invitation into the Kremlin.
At the same encounter Saxarov presented to Head of The State and the idea of nuclear explosive-years, similar according to the sense to the project "Orion". Structurally Saxarov's explosive-years it had to consist of control compartment, crew compartment, section for positioning of nuclear charges, main propulsion engine system and liquid propellant rocket engines. Ship also had to have a feed system of nuclear charges and a system of damping for the levelling off of rocket after nuclear explosions. Well and, of course, the tanks of a sufficient tank for the fuel stocks and oxidizer. In the lower part of the ship had to be fastened the screen with a diameter of 15-25 m, in focus of which had to "thunder" the nuclear explosions.
Ground start was achieved with the use the liquid propellant rocket engines, placed on the lower supports. Fuel- and was intended to give oxidizer from the external attached fuel tanks, which could be thrown out after emptying. On the liquid-propellant engines the apparatus rose to an altitude of several kilometers (or tens of kilometers), after which was included the main propulsion engine system of ship, in which was used the energy of the sequential explosions of the nuclear charges of low power.
In the process of the work on the constructions of different overall sizes were explosive-in summer examined and counted several versions. Respectively changed the starting mass, and the mass of payload, which it was possible to put into orbit. But it is necessary to note that, in spite of the significant masses of construction, it was not characterized by large sizes. For example, "PK -3000" ("the manned complex" with a starting mass of 3000 t) had the height of approximately 60 m, and "PK -5000" ("the manned complex" with a starting mass of 5000 t) - less than 75 m. the payload, concluded in orbit, in these versions it was 800 and 1300 t respectively.
Elementary calculation shows that the mass-ratio of payload to the starting mass exceeded 25%! But indeed contemporary rocket on the chemical fuel derives into space not more than 7-8% of the starting mass.
As the launch pad for the "explosive-years" they selected one of the regions on the north of the Soviet Union - designers assumed that for the start of new spacecraft it is necessary to construct special spaceport. Place for it was selected on the basis of two considerations. First, the north latitudes made it possible to lay the course of the rocket above the almost inaccessible sparsely populated regions, and in the case of emergency this made it possible to avoid excess victims. In the second place, the "starting" of nuclear engine far from the equatorial plane out of the zone of the so-called trapping region of geomagnetic field made it possible to avoid the appearance of artificial radiation belts.
deology prevented further development of the idea of Saxarov's explosive-years. In regard to this in the Soviet scientific publications they spoke out as follows: "... frequently the attractiveness of explosive thermonuclear engines explains by the possibility to usefully consume with their aid the accumulated in a number of the countries reserves of the thermonuclear (hydrogen) bombs, when the peoples of peace come to agreement about the world disarmament. It is seemed to us that neither with the political nor from a technical point of view this reason is maintained criticism. The accumulated thermonuclear weapon can be utilized, if this it is necessarily for achievement of more total discharging, where it is more effective within the more short time, without expending long years on the expectation of that, when the most unique and complex new engineering space construction is created.
"apparently, the appearance of the first models of thermonuclear power engineering in the industrial arena should be expected toward the end of our century. This will open before humanity the extraordinary horizons, will make it possible to restore the resources of our planet... "- this thought, expressed by the outstanding Soviet physicist by the President of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR academician a. p. Aleksandrov, as it cannot better confirms the considerations given above. First, before the appearance of space thermonuclear engines still far, whereas discharging and peaceful utilization of combat thermonuclear charges are the requirement of our time. In the second place, is even now obvious the importance of scientific studies on the practical application of thermonuclear power engineering, including in cosmonautics... "
I.e., it was implied that the disarmament with the liquidation of nuclear arsenals will set in where earlier than will be built ship. Time showed the absurdity of similar expectations. It turned out that the disarmament and the liquidation of nuclear arsenals is in no way connected with each other, and Saxarov's explosive-years both not it was and no.
Contemporary engineers turned themselves to the ideas of our outstanding compatriot. They indicate that the apparatus proposed by Saxarov does not maintain criticism from the point of view of today's ideas about the ecology and safety. The reason for return to the examination of this project consists in the fact that arose the demand for the technologies, capable of protecting the Earth from the collision with the comet or the asteroid. The enormous nuclear charge, which must be somehow delivered to the purpose, is the thus far only method of eliminating this danger. For this it is proposed as the charge carrier to use Saxarov's explosive-years.
In contrast to the previous project, in which was assumed the starting from the earth's surface that hopelessly from the point of view of ecology and safety, the start of new "explosive-years" is assumed from the orbital trajectory. Due to this the construction will become lighter and simpler.
The operating principle of "explosive-years" consists in the creation of mechanical impulse on the screen ("sail") due to the explosive energy of charge. To carry out construction of engine system is possible in two diverse variants. In one case as basis is placed the simple exchange of the kinetic energy between the screen and the dispersion work substance, located directly on the charge, while in other - pressure impulse on the screen is transformed due to the warming-up of the special substance, supplied on the surface of screen directly up to the moment of sequential explosion, version with the "sweating screen". The construction of this "explosive-years" assumes payload in 1000 t.