“Pulsed Nuclear Space Propulsion and International Law: Some Preliminary Observations”

Glenn Reynolds, InstaPundit aside, has taught and written extensively about space law. Leigh Outten is a former student and holds a master’s degree in nuclear engineering at MIT. They coauthored an article discussing space law and Orion Drives, which I found extremely interesting. This is the abstract

Pulsed Nuclear Propulsion was developed in 1950s and 1960s, by Ted Taylor, Hans Bethe and Ted Taylor. It involves the propulsion of large-sized spacecraft with compact nuclear explosions using specialized atomic device. Orion is the Air Force’s name for this technology.

Since 1962, it has been held that nuclear pulse propulsion is prohibited by the Limited Test Ban Treaty. This paper examines the Orion Project and the results. It also reviews the law to determine if the language of 1967 Outer Space Treaty could override Test Ban agreements that allow non-weapons nuclear explosives propulsion.

The subject of pulsed nuclear space propulsion is worth a second look, especially with a new race for space and important players like China being exempt from the Test Ban Treaty. We hope this paper will serve as a jumping off point to further discussion.

There are only 23 pages, but it is well worth reading.