Lightweight Medusa nuclear pulse propulsion

Nick Stevens has a 2 minute film on the Medusa, a spacecraft that works by throwing bombs into a sail that’s ahead of it.

While there are some difficulties with the design, such as hardening the elements hit by the blast, it is considered a feasible way of getting a spacecraft up to high speeds – much higher than chemical rockets, but not fast enough to reach the stars.

As usual, everything modeled and rendered in Lightwave 3d.

The Medusa design is a type of nuclear pulse propulsion which has more in common with solar sails than with conventional rockets. It was proposed in the 1990s in another BIS project when it became clear that ICF did not appear to be able to run both the engine and the ship, as previously believed.

A Medusa spacecraft would deploy a large sail ahead of it, attached by cables, and then launch nuclear explosives forward to detonate between itself and its sail. The sail would be accelerated by the impulse, and the spacecraft would follow.

Medusa performs better than the classical Orion design because its sail intercepts more of the bomb’s blast, its shock-absorber stroke is much longer, and all its major structures are in tension and hence can be quite lightweight. It also scales down better. Medusa-type ships would be capable of a specific impulse between 50,000 and 100,000 seconds (500 to 1000 kN·s/kg).”

Operating sequence of the Medusa propulsion system. This diagram shows the operating sequence of a Medusa propulsion spacecraft
(1) Starting at moment of bomb / pulse unit firing,
(2) As the bomb’s explosion pulse reaches the parachute canopy,
(3) Pushes the canopy, accelerating it away from the bomb explosion as the spacecraft plays out the main tether with the winch, braking as it extends, starting to accelerate the spacecraft,
(4) And finally winches the tether back in.

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