Atomic Rockets

A Rocket is Just The Thing!

Your imagination has been captured by the roaring rockets from Heinlein's SPACE CADET or the Polaris from TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET. But are such rockets possible? How does one go about defining the performance of these atomic-powered cruisers?

This document gives some hints and equations that will allow back-of-the-envelope calculations on such matters. Though horribly simplistic, they are far better than just making up your figures.

This site was mainly intended for science fiction authors who wanted a little scientific accuracy so they can write SF "the way God and Heinlein intended" (Arlan Andrews's Law). But anybody who is interested can play with the toys contained within, designing their own Planet Rangers Rocketships. It is assumed that the reader has enough knowledge to know the difference between a star and a planet, high school mathematics, and enough skill to use a pocket calculator. Computer spreadsheet and computer programming skills are a plus, spreadsheets in particular will make your life much easier.

The engine and the torchship pages explain how easily do some of the calculations using Nomograms. PDF versions of the nomograms can be downloaded from those pages, or printed versions can be purchased from the Project Rho Store. There is also a poster of the Atomic Rocket Cruiser Polaris. Not to mention official Atomic Rockets coffee mugs and blank journals.

While this site originally focused on rocketry equations, as you can see it has grown to encompass other topics of interest to SF authors and game designers.

Patreon

Alas, updates to this website are very sporadic and far in between. I've got about a five year backlog of data that is yet to be incorporated. You can help by becoming my patron on Patreon. For just a few dollars a month you can help break the log jam and allow me to get this website polished and tuned. Patreon is sort of like a cross between Kickstarter and medieval artist's patrons. Click on the link and I'll explain in detail.

Gamma Level Patrons
Alistair Young creator of the Eldraeverse
Ken Burnside Founder and President of Ad Astra Games
Stephen Rider
Christopher Weuve Founder of SFConSim-l
Duane J. Oldsen
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Ravensdale
GPS
Matt Levonian
Brad McKinstry
Delta Level Patrons
David S. F. Portree author of Wired's Beyond Apollo
John Reiher curator of Realistic Spaceship Illustrations
Ergodic Mage
Ian Carpenter

Title Image

The image was created by the author, using the astonishingly powerful open-source program Blender 3D. The author crafted the mesh using blueprints of the Polaris from the Spaceship Handbook. The NERVA solid-core nuclear thermal rocket was created using reference images of NASA mock-ups. The green equations are from other pages in this website. The background image of Earth is courtesy of NASA. There is a larger version of the image here.

For dramatic effect I made the exhaust a blaze of blue. In reality, a hot hydrogen blast is invisible.