Dec 032017

There is apparently some discussion about parking some THAAD missiles along the west coast to protect against the likes of a Nork missile. The THAAD isn’t a full-up anti-ICBM system, but it’s the best the US currently has for land-based systems. It’s also the only missile in operation that has an important subsystem (the igniter) designed by *me.* So there.

The US May Add THAAD Missile Systems On The West Coast

There is, of course, no actual money for this.

 Posted by at 8:09 pm
Dec 032017

An updated version of a post from a few years ago with obsolete formatting, with added editorial bloviation!

Point of note: 1963 is 54 years ago. With all the advances in the last half century, America still relies on the Minuteman. Since the Minuteman was developed, we also developed the Midgetman and Peacekeeper ICBMs… and got rid of them.

Note as well that the five year development time for the original Minuteman is  year and a half longer than the time since I originally posted another version of this old Minuteman video. And in that three and a half years, the United States does not seem to have developed a new ICBM, while in that time the North Koreans and Iranians *have.* The Russians have tested updated versions of the “Satan” ICBM (the RS-28 Sarmat), which carries 10+ warheads; the Minuteman III currently mouldering in American silos were designed for a whopping 3 warheads, but now carry a grand total of *one* warhead due to treaty restrictions.


Also of historic note: when the Minuteman was developed, a lot of components that, were they to be developed today, would be digital were then analog. The safe-and-arm for the solid rocket motors was essentially a heavy chunk of clockwork. The S&A simply served the purpose of making sure than an accidental electrical or mechanical discharge somewhere, if it inadvertently set off the ordnance lines leading to the motor igniter, would not actually get to the igniter. They are simple mechanical blocks that prevent the signal from getting through unless they are properly activated.

The Minuteman S&A’s worked well enough. So, when Thiokol was developing the solid rocket boosters for the Shuttle, they used the Minuteman S&As. And since once something is designed and fielded at NASA it almost never changes, the 1963-vintage S&As stayed with the RSRMs throughout the lifespan of the Shuttle. Last I knew, they were also in use on the five-segment boosters to be used on the “next generation” Space Launch System.” So *if* the SLS gets built (doubtful) and flies for decades (doubtful), the relatively ancient Minuteman S&As will probably fly with them throughout the SLS’s lifespan. If SLS flies in 2020 and lasts 20 years, the Minuteman S&A will have an 80 year operational life. Of course, by the time the SLS is retired, the Minuteman ICBM itself might still be in service.

 Posted by at 3:45 pm
Nov 292017

Seems they’re stepping up their game:

North Korea missile launch: The most important things to know

The most recent missile reached an altitude of about 4,475 kilometers. Experts believe that this missile has the range to reach *all* of the United States. However, the warhead, which the Norks of course are claiming was super heavy, might have been light; it might have even been another stage. Still, even if they were only chucking a soccer ball at Florida, it’s an impressive achievement for a nation full of intestinal worms.

I would be utterly unsurprised if the missile is not even remotely accurate… they shoot it at Washington, D.C. and it hits Ohio. However, it would be a much less challenging mission to deposit a single warhead a few hundred kilometers above the central US in order to set off an EMP. If they were successful in pulling that off, the death toll would be horrendous. Estimates I’ve seen go up to a death toll of up to 90% of the American population due to the subsequent collapse of the power and transport infrastructure; famine would quickly follow, but not as quickly as major cities like Chicago and New York eating themselves. However, an EMP that takes outt the US civilian power grid would do close to diddly squat to the US military… so for a few days at leas thte US military would lash out and turn North Korea into ruined wasteland. it’s a safe bet that the moment the Norks launch that EMP weapons, they’ll launch an attack on South Korea. So the death toll in North Korea would be close to total; the death toll in South Korea could be millions. And the Japanese might get in on it.

And of course once the US has been shut down, it will be clear to everybody else that Team America World Cop is out of business. Russia will invade all its neighbors. China and India and Pakistan will probably go at it. The Arab world will go after Israel. The death toll could be in the billions, and civilization could come to an effective end.

With that possibility, the math on launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike on North Korea starts looking better.

 Posted by at 12:45 am
Nov 152017

A while ago an ebay seller had a display model of a maneuverable re-entry vehicle, a warhead for an ICBM.There was apparently no documentation to go with it, so details are pretty much utterly lacking. Still, it does look reasonably likely to have been a “real” display model built by or for the USAF or a defense contractor. It’s simple… a cone with four sides shaved off with four added flaps for control. This basic geometry has been popular for maneuverable warhead concepts for decades; McDonnell-Douglas used a similar shape (explicitly stated as having been derived from their maneuverable MIRV studies) for their Delta Clipper SSTO, and an even closer shape for their X-33 and follow-on concepts.

 Posted by at 11:27 am
Nov 112017

A few weeks ago, some artwork was put on ebay showing an alternate concept for the Lunar Roving Vehicle. This one was apparently sold as being optionally manned, which would certainly be a useful feature. Especially if it could be teleoperated from Earth after the crew has gone home. Note that one of the illustrations shows the unmanned rover towing a two-wheeled cart loaded with nuclear power generator (an RTG); similar RTGs are shown hanging off the sides of an unmanned LRV, and two RTGs are shown in the distance in the illustration showing unmanned-to-manned conversion. What *may* be intended here is that the unmanned version would drive around under RTG power and charge up batteries; for manned use the RTGs are left in the distance and the things operates purely under battery power. If returned to RTG/unmanned prior to the crew leaving, then the LRV would have virtually unlimited range. With enough time, an LRV could even drive to another landing site and be there in time for a new crew to land and make use of it.

 Posted by at 10:16 pm
Nov 062017

Theoretical evidence suggests that the fusion of two quarks could be a substantially more energetic event than the fusion of two hydrogen atoms.  Two “bottom” quarks release 138 million electron volts when fused to create a nucleon, while the fusion of deuterons/tritons to produce helium nuclei average out to about 18 million electron volts.

That’s cool and all, but the problem is that the lifespan of a free-roaming bottom quark is about one picosecond, while a halflife of tritium is 12.3 years. This means you can’t actually build up any of the stuff. If you posit some near-magical advanced technology that can crank out a kilo of bottom quarks in much less than a picosecond and mash them all together, you’ve probably posited a technology that can make a bigger bang without going to the bother of fusing the quarks… just the process of turning barionic matter into a pile of quarks is probably damaging enough (imagine if the Death Star didn’t just fire a boring old laser beam, but emitted a magical field that converts the baryons that make up a planet into free quarks).

Still, it’s always interesting when science comes up with new stuff that allows science journalists to kinda freak out a bit and produce clickbaity article titles…

The Subatomic Discovery That Physicists Considered Keeping Secret

 Posted by at 11:27 am
Nov 052017

Currently being sold on ebay is a display model of a missile, a “Martin ASM.” ASM almost certainly means “Air to Surface Missile,” but otherwise there’s no further info. Seller seems to think it’s related to the Assault Breaker project, but it looks vaguely like a Skybolt-ish air-launched ballistic missile.




 Posted by at 4:56 pm
Oct 222017

Twenty six years ago, in 1991, the USAF ended the long practice of keeping nuclear armed B-52s on 24 hour standby ready to launch at a moments notice. The practice ended because the Soviet Union had collapses and the Cold War was finally over; at last there was no more threat of being nuked into oblivion by power-mad socialists.

Ah, good times.

US Preparing to Put Nuclear Bombers Back on 24-Hour Alert



 Posted by at 9:45 pm
Oct 172017

Interesting if true:

FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow

The basic claims are not new, but the claims that the FBI knew about it and essentially sat on it… that’s new.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

 Posted by at 10:31 pm