Operation CASTLE's 15 MT Bravo early fireball with Compton Effect lightning, March 1, 1954

Friday, February 7, 2014

Section 1, Operation HARDTACK Military Effects Studies (1958): High Altitude

Here are some early color test experiments from random frame comparisons of scenes (before and after):

Low resolution color test

DASA was the 1959 successor of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project (AFSWP). Today's version of this military agency's functions is the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).

A Convair RB-36 Peacemaker.

A comparison rendering with uniformity makes more sense. The texture of the background upper sky suggests color instead of blackness.

 A P2V-5F Neptune patrol aircraft

Aircraft were used as camera platforms for recording fireball data. The black camera to the left was a 70 mm Mitchell. The large grey camera was a Wollensak Fastax 35 mm High Speed, capable of 5000 fps, but operated at 2000 fps. Cameras used: 35 mm Fastax FF-1, 35 mm Fastax FF-2, 70 mm Maurer M-4, 70 mm Hulcher H-10, 70 mm Streak STR-4, and 24 fps Mitchell.

An Air Force technician checked this recording instrument during fireball studies aboard a gigantic Convair RB36H Peacemaker aerial platform.

Aerial data capture platforms were packed with scientific equipment during HARDTACK I.

The YUCCA test's helium balloon assembly before deployment. It was launched from the USS Boxer (CV-21) carrier between Enewetak and Bikini Atolls.

Recalling an earlier test, on 6 April, 1955, a B-36H dropped the 3.2 kt HA (high altitude) device (in a Mk-5 ballistic case), detonating at 36,620 feet/11.2 km, forming a rapidly rising torus.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) formed in the fireball in the low-density atmosphere, created a pale, reddish-brown tint.

A 1957 Chevrolet 3100 truck painted brown for government service, including the white ID number on the bumper.

TEAK and ORANGE warhead payloads were launched by Redstone missiles from Johnston Island, under the direction of Wernher von Braun. Both tests comprised Operation NEWSREEL. Each W39 warhead test produced 3.8 MT yield. Here a fireball environment probe was mounted at the base of a rocket.  

From the Operation HARDTACK 1958 Defense Nuclear Agency report:

The two scientific team members assembled the nosecone onto a high altitude scientific probe of the type placed closest to the TEAK and ORANGE bursts. Carried along the bases of the Redstone launch missiles, and later jettisoned at the targeted altitudes, these instruments recorded thermonuclear effects. Momentum reaction gauges, radiant energy intensity, and ablation plugs (for effects of intense X-rays on materials) were part of the structural materials pod.

Fireball sizes reached 10 mi/16 km across in the visible spectrum, and 40 mi/64 km wide in the infrared spectrum.

Macular and retinal eyeburn studies were important for designing defenses against nuclear flashes. Nuclear fireballs are 50x the intensity of our Sun's photosphere, per unit surface area.

A Redstone missile test immediately before launch ignition:

The TEAK burst from 50 mi/80 km below, as filmed from the Johnston Island launch site. The blue quickly darkened, as a first orange shell rapidly expanded into a red color, covering much of the sky.

That trail from the bottom left was an exhaust trail from a rocket that launched a scientific probe into the fireball region. 

Ouch at those discontinuities in the sky, and some cross-coupling of color in the tower, that require more labor. The gaps of continuity are caused by the sweeping color bar artifacts from the Betacam SP to VHS transcription:

Evidence of Redstone launch preparations, appearing to be fueling, is seen the oxygen vapor emission.

A new trial test increased uniformity in sky color (above)

The B-36's outboard jet engines were only used for takeoff and fast climbing, to conserve fuel consumption during Strategic Air Command missions frequently lasting 40 hours:

The giant B-36 was famously described by USAF Lieutenant General James Edmundson:

"Well, the B-36 really wasn't much fun to fly. It's a gigantic thing. They used to say it was like sitting on your front porch and flying your house around. It was big on the outside and small on the inside. Very cramped for the crews. And the missions were long."
More:  Emundson interview 
The XB-36, here (above) a1948 prototype, dwarfed the United States' first strategic bomber, the B-29/50. Crews entered in front and rear ladders 50 yards/45 meters apart. 

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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