Photography courtesy of U.S. Air Force Special Weapons Center (top); General Atomic (left);
Drawing by Michael Treshow, 1962, courtesy of General Atomic and Bruno Augenstein, RAND (right).
back and forth between Albuquerque, Washington,
D.C., and La Jolla, Calif., intermediating between the
physicists who saw Orion as a way to visit Mars and
the generals who saw Orion as a way to counter the
Soviets on Earth.
Military Implications of the Orion Vehicle appeared
in July of 1959 and was, according to a declassified
Air Force summary, “largely the work of Mixson,
aided by Dr. Taylor, Dr. Dyson, Dr. D.J. Peery, Maj.
Lew Allen, Capt. Jasper Welch, and First Lt. William
Whittaker. The study examined the possibilities of
establishing military aerospace forces with ORION
ships and these were conceived as: 1) a low altitude
ABOVE: Proposed Orion
vehicle parameters, 1958.
LEFT: Crew compartment
vehicle: pulse interval is
0.86 seconds, with normal
acceleration below 2g.
RIGHT: Proposed 200-ton
test vehicle, 1962: 30-foot
pulse period, 75-foot
separation distance, 1.9g
charges, yield unknown.
force (2-hour, 1,000-mile orbits), 2) a moderate
altitude force (24-hour orbits), and 3) a deep space
force (the Moon and beyond). The report recommended that the Air Force formally establish a
requirement for the ORION vehicle in order to prevent
the ‘disastrous consequences’ of an enemy first.”
Gen. Thomas S. Power, who had succeeded
Gen. Curtis LeMay as SAC’s commander in chief,
initiated Air Force QORs (Qualitative Operational
Requirements) for a “Strategic Aerospace Vehicle,”
a “Strategic Earth Orbital Base,” and a “Strategic
Space Command Post” with Orion in mind. Prickett
flew out to General Atomic with Mixson for a briefing