Propulsion Test Vehicle, Project Orion


Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Summary:

This is the largest remaining hardware from Project Orion. Project Orion was to test the nuclear pulse concept of successive explosions of small nuclear bombs for extremely fast and powerful propulsion for deep space missions, although this test model, known as "Hot Rod," used conventional high explosives to test the feasibility of the pulse concept. It was designed and built by the General Atomics Division of the General Dynamics Corporation.

The test was conducted in 1959 at Point Loma, California. The vehicle's five rapid successive explosions sent shock waves against a well-protected pusher plate, driving the vehicle forward. "Hot Rod" was then recovered by parachute. Project Orion was cancelled in 1965. This object was donated to the Smithsonian in 1972 by the Gulf General Atomic Co.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

Credit Line

Gulf General Atomics Division, General Dynamics Corporation


  • HAZMAT: Possible Cadmium Plating
  • Fiberboard, fabric, wood, aluminum and other metals, plastic, and rope


Storage (Housed in a wooden crate): 217.2 × 146.7 × 158.8cm, 301.6kg (85 1/2 × 57 3/4 × 62 1/2 in., 665lb.)

Country of Origin

United States of America



Inventory Number


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