Echos Of The Cold War: Nuclear-Powered Missiles Have Been Tried Before

On August 8th, an experimental nuclear device exploded at a military test facility in Nyonoksa, Russia. Thirty kilometers away, radiation levels in the city of Severodvinsk reportedly peaked at twenty times normal levels for the span of a few hours. Rumors began circulating about the severity of the event, and conflicting reports regarding forced evacuations of residents from nearby villages had some media outlets drawing comparisons with the Soviet Union’s handling of the Chernobyl disaster.

Today, there remain more questions than answers surrounding what happened at the Nyonoksa facility. It’s still unclear how many people were killed or injured in the explosion, or what the next steps are for the Russian government in terms of environmental cleanup at the coastal site. The exceptionally vague explanation given by state nuclear agency Rosatom saying that the explosion “occurred during the period of work related to the engineering and technical support of isotopic power sources in a liquid propulsion system”, has done little to assuage concerns.

The consensus of global intelligence agencies is that the test was likely part of Russia’s program to develop the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile. Better known by its NATO designation SSC-X-9 Skyfall, the missile is said to offer virtually unlimited flight range and endurance. In theory the missile could remain airborne indefinitely, ready to divert to its intended target at a moment’s notice. An effectively unlimited range also means it could take whatever unpredictable or circuitous route necessary to best avoid the air defenses of the target nation. All while traveling at near-hypersonic speeds that make interception exceptionally difficult.

Such incredible claims might sound like saber rattling, or perhaps even something out of science fiction. But in reality, the basic technology for a nuclear-powered missile was developed and successfully tested nearly sixty years ago. Let’s take a look at this relic of the Cold War, and find out how Russia may be working to resolve some of the issues that lead to it being abandoned. Continue reading “Echos Of The Cold War: Nuclear-Powered Missiles Have Been Tried Before”

Putting The Coanda Effect To Work On A Quadcopter

The Coanda effect is an aerodynamic principle regarding the way fluids tend to flow along curved surfaces. This can be used to direct a flow, and [Tom Stanton] wanted to try out its application on a quadcopter. (Video embedded below.)

The project began by firing up the 3D printer, which made experimenting with a variety of different aerodynamic forms easy. Wishing to avoid simply putting a large obstruction in the way of an otherwise efficient propeller, the experiment first used impellers to direct flow sideways, over the edge of the Coanda domes. The impellers, combined with the Coanda domes, were a factor of 5 less efficient at generating thrust compared to a standard prop setup, but [Tom] persevered.

In testing, the drone was unable to fly outside of ground effect, with its weight exceeding its maximum thrust. However, [Tom] noted that the Coanda domes helped create a cushion of air when flying in this ground effect region that was far more than experienced with a typical prop drone.

Wanting some further success, [Tom] then replaced the impellers with standard drone props. This greatly improved performance, with the drone now able to fly out of ground effect and use far less power. However, its performance was still worse than a standard drone without Coanda domes fitted. [Tom] suspects that this is due to the weight penalty most of all.

While it’s unlikely you’ll see Coanda effect drones going mainstream anytime soon, [Tom]’s project goes to show that you can perform viable aerodynamic research at home with little more than a 3D printer and a fog machine. There’s plenty more fun you can have with the Coanda effect, too. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Putting The Coanda Effect To Work On A Quadcopter”

Game On With These Open Source Arduino Buzzers

Planning a game of Hacker Jeopardy at your next meetup? You’re going to want some proper buzzers to complete the experience, but why buy when you can build? [Flute Systems] has released an open source DIY game buzzer system based on the Arduino that will help instantly elevate your game. Certainly beats just yelling across the room.

The design has been made to be as easily replicable as possible: as long as you’ve got access to a 3D printer to run off the enclosures for the buzzers and base station, you’ll be able to follow along no problem. The rest of the project consists of modular components put together with jumper wires and scraps of perfboard. Granted it might not be the most elegant solution, but there’s something to be said for projects that beginners and old salts alike can complete.

Each buzzer consists of an Arduino Pro Mini 3.3 V, a nRF24L01, and of course a big pushbutton on the top. Each one is powered by a 110 mAh 3.7 V LiPo battery, though [Flute Systems] notes that the current version of the buzzer can’t actually recharge it. You’ll need to pull the pack out and charge it manually once and awhile. Thankfully, the printed enclosure features a very clever twist-lock mechanism which makes it easy to open anytime you need to poke at the internals.

The base station uses the 5 V version of the Pro Mini, with a Adafruit PowerBoost 1000C to step up the voltage from its 2,000 mAh battery. Of course it also has a nRF24L01, and also adds a buzzer and twin four digit seven-segment LED displays. [Flute Systems] says you can expect about five hours of runtime for the base station.

An especially nice feature of this setup is that the eight digit display allows the base station to show the number of each button in the order it was received. So rather than just getting a display of who buzzed in first, you can see the chronological order in which all eight buttons were pressed. Coming up with clever applications for this capability is left as an exercise for the reader.

Of course, there’s more than one way to build a buzzer. If you don’t like the way [Flute Systems] did it, then check out this version that uses 900 MHz radios and an OLED to show the results.