«Pluto» — nuclear heart for low-altitude supersonic cruise missile


Those who reached the conscious age in an era when the tragedy occurred at nuclear power plants Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, very young to keep in mind the time when «our friend the atom» had to provide affordable electricity so that the fuel is not necessary even be considered, and the machines that will be able to travel without refueling virtually forever.

And looking at the Premier League, who walk beneath the polar ice in the midst of the 1950s, could anyone imagine that ships, planes and even cars on nuclear energy will remain far behind?

As for the aircraft, the ability to study the introduction of nuclear energy in aircraft engines began in New York in 1946, later moved to Oak Ridge study (Piece Tennessee) in the main center for nuclear research dollars. Within the framework of the use of nuclear energy for the movement of aircraft project was launched NEPA (Nuclear Energy for Propulsion of Aircraft). In its implementation was a huge amount of research nuclear power plants open cycle. As the coolant for similar installations performed air that enters through the intake into the reactor to heat and the next release through the jet nozzle.
But, on ways of translating the dream of using nuclear energy funny thing happened: the Yankees opened radiation. So, for example, in 1963 the project was closed of cosmic ship «Orion», in which involves the introduction of reactive atomic pulse motor. The main prerequisite for closing the project was the entry into force of the Contract, which prohibits nuclear weapon testing in the atmosphere, underwater and of cosmic space. And bombers, nuclear kitted engine, which already began to make test flights after 1961 (the Kennedy administration closed the program from) never in the air is not podymali, although the Air Force has already begun to conduct pilots in the midst of a marketing campaign. The main «target audience» were pilots who went out of childbearing age, which leads to radioactive radiation from the engine and concern about the country’s gene pool Yankees. In addition, Congress later learned that at the disaster area such aircraft crash would be inapplicable to stay. It also does not benefit popularity of similar technologies.

Overall, only 10 years after the debut program from «Atoms for Peace» Eisenhower administration was compared not with strawberries the size of a soccer ball and a cheap electricity, and Godzilla and cyclopean ants that devour people.

Important role in this situation was the fact that Russian Union launched Sputnik 1.

Americans realized that the Russian Alliance in the current time is a favorite in the design and creation of the missiles, and the missiles can carry not only the satellite, and the atomic bomb. Coupled with this South American military knew that the Soviets could become a favorite in the area of ​​the creation of anti-missile systems.

To counteract this potential danger was decided to make nuclear cruise missiles or unmanned nuclear bombers, which have a large radius and can act to overcome low-level air defense.

Office of Strategic Development in November 1955 requested the Commission for Atomic Energy of how the concept of suitable aircraft engine, which was used in ramjet engine, nuclear power plant.

Latin American Air Force in 1956 and released identified requirements cruise missile curb nuclear power plant.

South American air force, the company «General Electric» and the upcoming Lawrence Livermore Laboratory at the California Institute carried out a series of research, confirmed the possibility of creating a nuclear reactor for use in a jet engine.

«Pluto» — nuclear heart for low-altitude supersonic cruise missile

The result of these researches was the decision to develop a low-altitude supersonic cruise missile SLAM (Supersonic Low-Altitude Missile). Brand new missile was to use nuclear ramjet engine.

Project that aims to become a reactor for this gun, received the code name «Pluto», which became the symbol and the rocket itself.

Project received its name in honor of the Roman ruler of the underworld Pluto. Apparently, this shadowy character served as inspiration for the creators of the missile, which has the dimensions of the locomotive, which was supposed to fly to the level of the trees, dropping hydrogen bombs on the town. The creators of «Pluto» believed that only one shock wave produced in this missile, capable of killing people on the ground. Another attribute of a new deadly weapon was deadly radioactive release. As if there was not much that was unprotected reactor neutron source and a palette of radiation, nuclear engine would throw out the remnants of the nuclear fuel, polluting the country on the path of the rocket.

As for the airframe, it is not designed for SLAM. Glider had to provide at sea level speed Mach 3. With all this heat from the skin friction of the air can be up to 540 degrees Celsius. While aerodynamics for similar flight conditions studied is not enough, but it was a huge amount of research, including 1600 hours of wind tunnel. As good aero elected a «duck.» It was assumed that this is the scheme will provide data for flight conditions required properties. The results of these purges traditional air intake device with conical flow was changed to a two-dimensional input device current. It worked better in a wider range of angles of yaw and pitch, also made it possible to reduce the pressure loss.

Also conducted a research program from the immense material science. The result was fuselage section made of steel Rene 41. This steel — high-alloy with a high content of nickel. Cladding thickness was 25 millimeters. Section tested in the furnace, that explore the impact of high temperatures caused by kinetic heating on the aircraft.

Front fuselage section was supposed to process a thin layer of gold, which was supposed to dissipate heat from the structure heated by radioactive radiation.

Apart from this, built a model of the nose, the air channel and vozduhopoglotitelya missiles made in the scale of 1/3. This model also painstakingly tested in a wind tunnel.

Made a preliminary design layout of hardware and equipment, including ammunition, consisting of hydrogen bombs.

At the moment, «Pluto» — an anachronism, all of a forgotten character of early, but less innocent era. But since «Pluto» was the most irresistibly cute midst of revolutionary technological innovations. «Pluton», as well as hydrogen bombs, which bear he had, in the technological sense, was very attractive to many scientists and engineers who worked on it.

Latin American Air Force and the Atomic Energy Commission 1 January 1957 elected Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Berkeley knolls, CA) as responsible for the «Pluto.»

Since not so long ago, Congress passed the cooperative project on nuclear rocket engine state laboratory in Los Alamos (New Mexico pcs) — Livermore competitor — the destination for the latest news was good.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which was in its own state class engineers and trained physicists, was chosen because of the importance of this work — no reactor, no engine, no engine and no missiles. In addition, this work was not normal: the design and creation of a nuclear ramjet engine puts a large amount of complex technological problems and tasks.

The mechanism of the ramjet engine of any type is relatively simple: the air intake of the motor under the pressure of the oncoming flow of air enters, then it is heated, causing it to expand, and gases with a higher speed, ejected from the nozzle. So makarom creates jet thrust. But in «Pluto» is the introduction of fundamentally new nuclear reactor to heat the air. The reactor of the missile, unlike hundred square meters surrounded by tons of concrete commercial reactors must have been quite small size and weight, to raise themselves and rocket into the air. With all of this reactor had to be sturdy enough to «survive» the flight of several thousand miles to the USSR are on the ground targets.

Teamwork Livermore Laboratory and the company «Chance-Vought» on defining the required characteristics of the reactor eventually led to the subsequent features:

Width — 1450 mm.
Fissioning nucleus diameter — 1200 mm.
Length — 1630 mm.
Core length — 1300 mm.
Critical mass of uranium — 59.90 kg.
Specific power — 330 megavatt/m3.
Power — 600 megawatts.
The average temperature of the fuel cell — 1300 degrees Celsius.

The success of the project «Pluto» in almost everything depended on the success of the whole in materials science and metallurgy. We had to make the pneumatic actuators that controlled reactor capable of operating in flight, when heated to extremely high temperatures and under the influence of ionizing radiation. The need to maintain supersonic speed at low altitudes and under different weather criteria means that the reactor had to withstand the conditions under which used in everyday rocket or jet engines melt materials or destroyed. Designers calculated that load, expected when flying at low altitudes, 5 times higher than similar, affect experimental aircraft X-15 rocket engines kitted reached at significant elevation of the number of M = 6.75. Ethan Platt, who worked on Pluto, stated that he was «in all senses sufficiently close to the limit.» Blake Myers, managing Livermore Jet Propulsion Division, stated: «We are constantly fiddling with the tail of a dragon.»

In the project «Pluto» was to be used strategy flight at low altitudes. This strategy ensured secrecy of the Soviet air defense radar systems.

To achieve the speed at which the work would ramjet engine, «Pluton» had to run from the ground using a package of ordinary rocket boosters. Start nuclear reactor began only after the «Pluton» reached cruising altitude and quite removed from populated areas. Nuclear engine, giving virtually unlimited range and acts allowed the rocket to fly over the ocean circles awaiting the order transition to supersonic speed to the target in the USSR.

Delivery significantly the number of warheads to different targets remote from each other, when flying at low altitudes, in rounding mode relief requests introducing precision guidance system. At that time there were already inertial guidance systems, but they could not be used in the criteria of hard radiation, which exuded reactor «Pluto.» But programm to create SLAM had extraordinary significance, and found a solution. Continued work on the inertial guidance system «Pluto» was made possible after the development of gas-dynamic bearings for gyros and the emergence of structural parts, which were resistant to strong radiation. But accuracy inertial system was still not sufficient to meet the objectives, as with increasing distance of the route increased value pointing errors. Found a solution to use an additional system, which in certain parts of the route would produce a course correction. Image sections of the route had to be stored in system memory guidance. Research funded by «Vought» that led to the targeting system was created, which owns sufficient for use in SLAM accuracy. This system was patented under the name FINGERPRINT, and later renamed TERCOM. TERCOM (Terrain Contour Matching, tracing terrain) uses a set of reference maps of the area along the route. These maps of the memory of the navigation system contained data on the height of the detail of the terrain and pretty in order to be considered unique. The navigation system uses a radar produces a downward comparison areas and the reference card, then produces course corrections.

In general, after some modifications, TERCOM would give the opportunity to destroy a huge number SLAM distant targets. There was also a wide programm test system TERCOM. Flights during the trials were conducted on different types of the earth’s surface, in the absence and presence of snow cover. During the tests proved the feasibility of the desired accuracy. Apart from this, all the navigation equipment meant to use a guidance system has been tested for resistance to the effects of strong radar.

This guidance system went so successful that the principles of its work so far remain constant and are used in cruise missiles.

The combination of low altitude and the highest speed was supposed to provide «Pluto» the opportunity to achieve and reach their targets, while ballistic missiles and bombers could be intercepted during their journey to Target.

Another fundamental quality «Pluto», which often mention engineers, reliability was a rocket. One of the engineers read about «Pluto» as a bucket of rocks. The prerequisite for this is a common design and high reliability missiles, for which Ted Merkle, Project Manager, gave a nickname — «flying scrap.»

In faded blamed for creating a 500-megawatt reactor, which was to become heart «Pluto.»

Companies «Chance-Vought» has already been transmitted to the treaty creating the airframe, and for the creation of ramjet engine, except the reactor was responsible company «Marquardt.»

Needless to say, together with increasing the temperature to which the motor in the channel can be heated air, increasing the efficiency of nuclear engine. Because the design of the reactor (the code name «Tori») Clawed slogan became «hot — is better.» But the problem was that the working temperature is about 1,400 degrees Celsius. With such temperature superalloys heated to such an extent that the lost strength properties. This led in turn Clawed porcelain company «Coors» (Colorado) to create clay fuel cells capable of withstanding such highest temperature in the reactor and to ensure uniform temperature rassredotachivanie.

At present the company «Coors» known as the manufacturer of various commodities, due to the fact that Adolf course at one point realized that the creation of the vats with a clay liner, designed for breweries, would not in that business, which should be addressed. And although the company continued to porcelain porcelain creation, including fuel and 500,000 pieces for «Tori» shaped pencil, it all started with okolopivnogo business Adolf Course.

To produce fuel high-temperature parts of the reactor was used clay beryllium oxide. It is mixed with zirconia (stabilizing agent) and uranium dioxide. In the Course of clay plastic mass was compressed under the highest pressure, then sintered. As a result, getting the fuel elements. Fuel cell — a hollow tube of hexagonal shape, longish is about 100 mm, the outer diameter — 7.6 mm, and internal — 5.8 mm. These tubes are connected in such a Makarov that the length of the air duct is equal to 1300 mm.

Total reactor fuel used 465 thousand units, of which 27 thousand created air channels. Similar reactor design ensured rassredotachivanie uniform temperature in the reactor, which, coupled with the introduction of clay materials made it possible to achieve these features.

But extremely highest operating temperature «Tori» was only just the first of a number of inconsistencies that need to be overcome.

Another problem for the reactor became a flight to Mach 3 or during precipitation over the ocean and the sea (via pairs of salty water). Merkle Engineers used during testing various materials, which should have been provided with protection against corrosion and high temperatures. These materials are intended to be used for manufacturing missiles mounted aft mounting plates and the rear portion of the reactor where the temperature reached the highest values.

But only temperature measurement data plates was a difficult task, because the sensors are designed to measure the temperature of the radiation exposure and the very highest temperature reactor «Tori» lit and exploded.

When designing the mounting plates temperature tolerances were so close to critical values ​​that only 150 degrees divided operating temperature of the reactor and the temperature above which the mounting plate spontaneous combustion.

In reality, in the development of «Pluto» had many of the unknown that Merkle has decided to conduct a full-scale static test reactor, which was intended to ramjet engine. This was to solve all the problems at once. To perform the test, in Livermore decided to build in the Nevada desert to custom, near the place where laboratory tested its nuclear weapon. Object that has the name «Area 401», built on eight square miles Donkey Plain, at the declared price and ambitions eclipsed himself.

Since the reactor after starting «Pluto» became very radioactive, it reaches the site of tests was carried out on a specially constructed entirely automatic train band. For this band to move the reactor at a distance of approximately 2-miles, which was divided shield static tests and powerful «Dismantling» building. The building «hot» reactor was dismantled for examination by the equipment managed remotely. Livermore scientists monitored the test process using the television system, which was located in a tin hangar far from the test board. Just in case the hangar was equipped with a radiation shelter with a two-week supplies of food and water.

Only to ensure the supply necessary for the construction of concrete walls dismantling structure (thickness ranged from 6 to eight feet), the United States received the whole shaft.

Millions of pounds of compressed air stored in the pipes used in oil production, a total length of 25 miles. This compressed air is supposed to be used to simulate a criterion in which ramjet engine is in flight at cruising speed.

To ensure that the system air pressure is highest, the laboratory has borrowed from the Submarine Base (Groton, pcs. Connecticut) huge compressors.

To do this test, during which the plant was operated at full power for 5 minutes, took a ton of drive air through the iron tanks, which were filled more than 14 million iron balls with a diameter of 4 cm These tanks are heated to 730 degrees by the heating units, public burning oil.

Clawed uniformly team, for the first 4 years of work, was able to overcome all the obstacles that stand in the way of the creation of the «Pluto.» After a huge number of exotic materials were tested for use as a coating core motor engineers, it was found that this role perfectly sovladevaet paint for the exhaust manifold. Its booked through ad found in the car magazines Hot Rod. One of the unique innovations was the introduction of springs for fixing the assembly of the reactor mothballs that after its own tasks safely evaporated. The proposal was made by laboratory magicians. Richard Werner, another active group Clawed engineer, invented a method for determining the temperature of mounting plates. His technique is based on a comparison of color plates with a specific color scale. Color scale corresponded certain temperature.
May 14, 1961, engineers and scientists who are in the hangar where controlled experience, held their breath — the first in the world nuclear propulsive jet engine mounted on a bright red train platform, announced the birth of his own sonorous roar. Tori-2A launched only a few seconds, during which he did not develop its own power rating. But it was believed that the test was successful. The most important was that the reactor is not kindled, very afraid of what some representatives of the Committee on Atomic Energy. Almost immediately after the test Merkle started to work on the creation of the second reactor «Tori», who had to have a huge power at the lowest weight.

Works on Tory-2B further drawing board have not progressed. Instead he immediately built livermortsy Tory-2C, which broke the silence of the desert, three years after the first test reactor. A week later, this reactor was re-launched and worked at full capacity (513 MW) for 5 minutes. Proved that radioactivity exhaust significantly less than expected. On these tests also attended Air Force generals and bureaucrats of the Committee on Atomic Energy.
Merkle and his staff are very noisily celebrated the success of the tests. That there is only loaded on a transport platform piano, which «borrowed» from the ladies’ hostel is near. The entire mass of partying headed seated at the piano, soft, singing bawdy songs, rushed to the town of Mercury, where he occupied near the bar. On the subsequent morning, they all lined up to the tent doctors where they put vitamin B12, which was considered at that time an effective remedy for a hangover.

Returning to the lab, Merkle has focused attention on how to make the reactor easier and more powerful, which is quite small-size for the test flights. Even held discussions hypothetically Tori-3 missile is capable of accelerating to a speed of Mach 4.

At this time, customers from the Pentagon, which funded the project «Pluto» was assailed by doubts. Since the missile was launched from the territory of the United States and flew over the territory of U.S. allies at low altitude to avoid detection by Soviet air defense systems, some military strategists thinking — and not whether the missile allies pose to danger? Even before the rocket «Pluto» will throw bombs on the enemy, it will stun first, crush and even irradiate allies. (It was expected that Pluto flying over head, the noise level on the ground will be about 150 decibels. For comparison — the noise level rocket that sent the Yankees to the moon (Saturn 5), on full power was 200 decibels). Obviously, torn eardrums could be smaller problem, if you are under your head flying over a bare reactor, which would you like roasted chicken gamma and neutron radiation.

All this has forced officials of the Ministry of Defence to call the project «too provocative.» In their opinion, the presence of similar U.S. missile which is practically impossible to stop, and that may cause damage to the state, located somewhere between unacceptable and crazy, could force the Soviet Union to make a similar weapon.

Outside the laboratory different questions about whether capable «Pluton» puzzle perform under which designed it, and most importantly, whether this task is still topical, also podymali. Although the creators of missiles claimed that «Pluto» at the beginning of his own essence as elusive military analysts expressed their bewilderment — as something noisy, hot, huge, and radiation may remain undetected during the time it takes to perform tasks. At this time, the Air Force U.S. has already begun to deploy ballistic missiles «Atlas» and «Titan», who were able to achieve the goals of a few hours before flying reactor and missile system of the USSR, the horror of which was the main impetus for the creation of «Pluto» did not become a hindrance for ballistic missiles, despite successfully conducted test interceptions. Critics of the project have conjured up their transcript abbreviations SLAM — slow, low, and messy — slowly, smallish and dirty. After a successful test launch «Polaris» fleet beginning to show enthusiasm for the use of rockets for launches from submarines or ships also began to leave the project. And, finally, the terrible price of each missile: it was $ 50 million. At one point, «Pluto» was technology, which can not find an application tool, which did not have suitable targets.

But the final nail in the coffin of «Pluto» was just one question. He is so deceptively normal, that can be excused for livermortsev that they deliberately did not pay him attention. «Where to flight tests of the reactor? How to convince people that during the flight the rocket did not will lose control and will not fly over Los Angeles or Las Vegas at low altitude? «- Asked Livermore physicist Jim Headley, who worked until the end of the project» Pluto «. Currently, he is engaged in the discovery of the nuclear tests conducted in other countries, for the subdivision of Z. As recognized by the Hadley, there was no guarantee that the missile is not out of control and not be reincarnated as a flying Chernobyl.

Proposed several solutions to this problem. One of them was testing Pluto in Nevada. Proposed to bind it to a longish rope. Other, more realistic solution — start Pluto about Wake Island, where the rocket flew to slicing over eight belonging to the United States part of the ocean. «Hot» rocket was supposed to flood at a depth of 7 km in the ocean. But even when the Atomic Energy Commission declined worldview of people think of radiation as a source of boundless energy, offers a huge amount of dumping dirty radiation missiles into the ocean was quite enough, that stopped working.

July 1, 1964 g, after seven years and six months from the commencement of work, the project «Pluto» closed the Atomic Energy Commission and the Air Force. In suburban club, near Livermore, dull was organized «The Last Supper» for working on the project. There were handed out souvenirs — bottles of mineral water «Pluton» and tie clips SLAM. The total cost of the project amounted to 260 million dollars (in prices since then). During the peak flowering of the «Pluto» on it in the lab had about 350 people and about 100 work at the facility in Nevada 401.

Even despite the fact that «Pluto» never ascended into the air, designed for nuclear ramjet engine exotic materials are now finding application in an earthen cell turbines, also used in the apparatus of cosmic reactors.

Physicist Harry Reynolds, who also participated in the project Tory-2C, works at the moment in «Rockwell» on the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Some of livermortsev continue to be nostalgic for «Pluto.» According to William Moran, who oversaw the creation of parts for the reactor fuel Tori, these six years have been the best time of his life. Managing tests Chuck Barnett, summing result prevailed in the laboratory atmosphere, read: «I was young. We had a lot of money. It was very exciting. «

According to Headley, every couple of years a new Lieutenant Colonel Air Force opens a «Pluto.» Then he calls in the lab to find out the subsequent fate of the nuclear ramjet. Lieutenant lost interest immediately after Hadley knows about the problems with radiation and flight tests. More 1st Hadley times nobody called.

If anyone want to return to life «Pluton», then maybe he will find a few recruits in Livermore. But a lot of them will not. Idea of ​​what could become an instrument of hell crazy, better throw in the past.

Technical properties missiles SLAM:
Width — 1500 mm.
Length — 20000 mm.
Weight — 20 tons.
Radius acts — not limited to (theoretically).
Speed ​​at sea level — Mach 3.
Armament — 16 thermonuclear bomb (1 megaton power of each).
Engine — a nuclear reactor (600 MW capacity).
Guidance system — inertial + TERCOM.
Most skin temperature — 540 degrees Celsius.
Airframe material — high-temperature stainless steel Rene 41.
Thickness of plating — 4 — 10 mm.

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