Jul 142016

For the past several months Syfy has been in a bit of a programming lull. Prestige shows like “The Expanse” have finished their seasons, and we’re many months from new episodes. Modestly entertaining shows like “Dark Matter” and “Killjoys” have only just started new seasons. Shows like “Footfall: The Series” only exist in alternate universes. So Syfy has had to rely on their tertiary shows to fill the schedule. Of of these has been “Hunters,” a generally “meh” show. Production values are good, acting is… meh. Basic idea is that a few decades ago an alien species crashed to Earth (some trouble on their colony ship, stuck in orbit around Saturn) and assumed human identities; sadly, these aliens are generally kinda dickish, what with slaughtering people and all. So there’s the requisite shadowy government organization tasked with capturing/killing the alien “Hunters.” In the last several episodes it has been clear that the aliens were working on a spaceship of some kind, somewhere off screen.

The show, as I said, is “meh” grade entertainment. Not good enough to watch live, entertaining enough to DVR and watch later, distractedly while preparing supper, working on the computer, cleaning out the litter box, whatever. So finding myself burned out a bit from the current projects I’m plugging away at today, I plopped myself before the idiot box and called up yesterdays episode. Imagine my surprise when *this* is how the show started:


This was followed by clips from relatively well-known (among space nuts, anyway) General Atomic films of tests of subscale Project Orion hardware. Static fiberglass models on up to the “Hot Rod.”


As it turns out, the ship the aliens have been building in the northern Mexican desert is an Orion. The characters describe Project Orion specifically, by name; and while the cataclysmic apocalyptic results of a small Orion launch are overblown, they otherwise don’t *totally* screw up the description.

The design of the ship… well, it’s far from perfect, but it’s actually one of the more clearly-Orion nuclear pulse vessels I’ve seen on scree. Whoever designed it clearly had access to some Orion design info. Perhaps little more than a Google image search might pull up, but still, they did a better job than anyone else can think of offhand. The screenshots below were taken via the expedient of pointing a digital camera at the TV screen.


Dsc_4153 Dsc_4164

One of the computer interfaces shown on the ship – everything is in English, which is odd given that the ship was built by and for aliens – gives a few diagrams. Shown here is a schematic of a very recognizable pulse unit.


I was of course looking forward to see how well they showed the vehicle in flight. Sadly, that did not occur.


Interesting timing, given my Space Show interview just two days ago. One of the main subjects I was thinking I would cover on the show was the depiction of Orion/NPP on film and TV, but obviously we got nowhere near that subject. Oh well…

 Posted by at 1:37 am
Jul 122016

My interview on the Space Show is now available for downloading as a 26 megabyte MP4 right HERE. This one covers Project Orion, ol’ nuclear bang-bang. The discussion kinda wanders around some.

So, download, give it a listen, point and laugh. I’m listening to it now and recognizing once again that while I have a face for radio, I have  voice for print. At least this time, the audio troubles that plagued my last interview don’t seem to have arisen this time.

 Posted by at 10:28 am
Jul 022016

July 11, at 2PM Pacific time, I’m to be interviewed on The Space Show. The subject will be nuclear pulse propulsion; I am pondering several sub-topics to narrow down the focus. Including:

  1. The history of Project Orion (probably been done to death as far as listeners are concerned)
  2. The engineering of Orion technology – ships and pulse units
  3. How nuclear pulse propulsion has been depicted – often wrongly – in popular culture. And how to depict it accurately and interestingly.
  4. And of course, Pax Orionis. Because.
  5. I was on The Space Show once before, in December 2013, discussing aerospace history archiving, Dyna Soar and the like.


 Posted by at 11:19 pm
May 262016



Probably wisely, the fusion “Epstein Drive” used by ships in the universe of “The Expanse” are not described much at all. Since the mechanics of the drive systems are not germain to the plot, it’s best to leave them as undescribed as the mechanics of the internal combustion engine in a story about someone driving a taxi cab. Still, hints are dropped here and there, including that they use “fuel pellets.” This would tend to indicate that it’s a form of nuclear pulse propulsion, but one with not only an insanely high pulse rate, but also extreme thrust *and* extreme Isp. The result of that should be an extreme amount of waste heat that would need to be radiated, but clearly the ships of The Expanse don’t have giant radiators. There are theoretical ways to explain that away, but from what I’ve read so far it hasn’t been touched on. I know how I explain the lack of radiators on the fusion powered ships in *my* fiction…

UPDATE: In “Cibola Burn,” Alex the pilot gives a very, very brief description of the engine. It uses lasers to crush the fuel pellets and magnetic fields to direct the resulting exhaust. So it *is* clearly a nuclear pulse system, of the inertial confinement micropellet variety.

 Posted by at 8:22 am
Apr 122016

And then there’s this: I’ve roughly finished another Pax Orionis yarn: “Birth of the Bomb.”  It’s a greatly expanded, completely re-written version of a snippet I have previously posted and, perhaps shockingly, it’s not grimdark but rather the opposite (in a way). This one deals not with war but exploration. It’s somewhat longer than “The Deadliest Catch,” so it’ll be in two parts.

I’m currently going over it, tinkering. I need to add the Technical Diagram (a helicopter is mentioned in the story, and I’ve been tempted to draw *that,* but I’ve decided to stick with more Orion-based diagrams for the time being) and a few other bits, but I should have Part One available for Pax Orionis patrons in a week or two. So if you are interested, take a look at the Pax Orionis Patreon page.


 Posted by at 10:25 am
Mar 272016

I’ve just released Part Two (of two) of “The Blast from Jackass Flats,” describing the maiden voyage of the USSC Columbia. This was the first manned Orion vehicle in the Pax Orionis universe… the alternate history that starts with the Cuban Missile Crisis gone wrong and results in America conquering the solar system in ships powered by atom bombs.  Included in this issue is a Technical Data Sheet describing the Columbia, including modifications needed for atmospheric flight. This and other Pax Orionis tales are available at the Pax Orionis Patreon.

blast 2

 Posted by at 4:49 pm
Mar 262016

It has been a while since I’ve put out a new piece of Pax Orionis; since the last one, other obligations have jumped up and down on me. But in the next day or two Part 2 of “The Blast From Jackass Flats” will come out. If you’re on the Pax Orionis Patreon, the story will be only a buck; for two bucks you get the story and some extras, including a technical diagram, this time showing the USSC Columbia.

So, sign up now so you don’t miss each new installment. Because your Arch Nemesis just might be signed up, and you don;t want *that* dirtbag to get the jump on you here!

Pax Orionis

 Posted by at 6:27 pm
Dec 192015

It has been a while since I’ve put out a Pax Orionis story, but a new one has just been made available to the Pax Orionis Patreon patrons. This one tells of the maiden voyage of the Columbia and the resulting changes in geopolitics…

The bonus version (available to $2 & up patrons) includes diagrams and data on the Nova-class lofter as well as a bonus news article. If interested, check out the Pax Orionis Patreon. It’s cheap!

For those unaware: Pax Orionis is an alternate history project. In short, the Cuban Missile Crisis goes a little “funny,” resulting in the US fielding nuclear pulse propelled spacecraft (Orions). The goal is hard SF covering a number of decades of events, good, bad and really quite awful.


 Posted by at 1:17 pm
Dec 032015

I’m planning on producing some new cyanotype blueprints at some point. Some will be copies of vintage blueprints, but some will be all-new CAD diagrams. Below are some CAD diagrams at various stages of completion. All are based on a 10-inch by 40-inch format; this will make them appropriate for folding into a book, or hanging on a wall. They would go for $25 per sheet as cyanotypes; I might also do them in frosted (white) mylar for probably a bit cheaper and maybe on regular paper for a lot cheaper. However, before plowing ahead I’d be interested in feedback… which of these are of interest? Which might you actually plunk down funds for? Additionally: I’ve produced a *lot* of CAD diagrams for APR and USXP. Is there anything I’ve done you’d like to see expanded out like this?

1: USAF 10-meter Orion, two sheets, 1/96 scale


2: Have Sting orbital railgun, one sheet, 1/200 scale

ussp03-02-wide railgun-Model

3: X-15A-3, 1 sheet, 1/35 scaleussp 02-03 wide X15A-3-Model

4: Rockwell MRCC, 1 sheet, 1/60 scaleusbp-12-107 wide rockwell MRCC-Model

5: Rockwell D645-3, one sheet, 1/144 scaleusbp-07-104 wide rockwell d645-3-Model

6: X-20/Titan IIIc, two sheets, 1/72 scalemisc-132 wide X-20-Titan III-Model

7: XB-70, one sheet, 1/144 scalemisc-127 wide XB-70-Model

8: ITHACUS troop transport, two sheets, 1/200 scale

ustp04-002-1 wide ithacus-Model

 Posted by at 11:26 pm
Nov 112015

I released a two-part tale in the Pax Orionis series back in September, but nothing since. Partially due to travel, partially due to stress not being terribly conducive to creative writing. nevertheless, I’ve been writing, and am within spitting distance of finishing the next yarn, “The Blast from Jackass Flats.” The earlier two-parter told of an incident during the Great War of 1984 from the viewpoint of civilians on the surface, with Orion spacecraft way off in the distance; this next story deals explicitly with an important incident in the history of the Orion program. It will almost certainly be a one-parter rather than two.

Most of the Pax Orionis stories will be in different styles. This one is in the style of an author trying to tell the story from some time later. The author is perhaps overly interested in technical details…

If interested, please take a look at and consider signing on to the Pax Orionis Patreon. Only a buck!

 Posted by at 1:35 pm