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

Friday, October 11, 2013

Operation CASTLE Commander's Report (1954)

More early color tests:
The firing station, FS, to the far right, was where the Bravo firing team faced danger from completely unexpected, lethally radioactive fallout covering their control bunker island. You can read about their dramatic story here, as told by the Firing Party Commander, Dr. John C. Clark -- only subordinate to the Scientific Director, Dr. Alvin C. Graves: We Were Trapped by Radioactive Fallout (Courtesy of BadgerLink/EBCSO Host)

Partially enriched (40/60 %) lithium-6/7 inside the fusion capsule of the BRAVO device contributed to a yield 2.5 times the prediction, massively increasing the size of the mushroom cloud to a width that covered the entire atoll. Until the test, it was unknown that lithium 7 bombarded with very high energy neutrons would form extra tritium, the heaviest isotope of hydrogen. Lithium 7 neutron bombardment also creates extra neutrons, further increasing fusion and fission yields. Despite triggering of the bomb from a fission implosion primary, the entire set of stages was surrounded by a uranium jacket that also fissioned in a high flux of energetic 14 MeV (million electron volt mass-energy) neutrons.

Some of the firing site control team present during the Bravo test. (Left to right) Unidentified, Barney O'Keefe (EG&G), Jack Clark, and Herb Grier (a highly prominent engineer and CEO of EG&G, succeeding Edgerton at the incorporation date). This might have been the data processing room that gave them enough protection from penetrating gamma radiation, until an emergency rescue by 3 helicopters later in the day of the test.

O'Keefe designed precision triggering controls for nuclear weapons tests, starting with the Manhatten Project, and later became Chairman of the Board of EG&G. His technical achievements in the Manhatten Project earned him a Commendation of the President, Harry S. Truman.

By the 1970s, EG&G became a highly diversified commercial technical electricals, optical instrument/film manufacturer. and government engineering contractor giant, with overall sales in the billions of dollars. This is an impressive growth, considering that it was started by Harold Edgerton and Kenneth Germeshausen in 1931, with Grier Joining in 1934. All were from MIT. Their company was incorporated in 1947.
An M52 truck (with its characteristic semi-trailer configuration) delivered a thermonuclear bomb for testing. This was possibly the Bravo device in transport from Parry Island final assembly (shown below) to an LST (Landing Support Tank) ship, for shipment to its firing site.
Revision is required on bringing details out in the dark areas, yet Kodachrome I film was notorious for its contrast.

The M52 truck (above) emerged from the left side of the final assembly building and circled around. Firing barges were moored at the Parry dock. (LANL)

A Mark 17 weapon casing was drop-tested over the Nevada National Security Site, for performance analysis.
Diagnostic vacuum pipes (above) bridged a 1.4 mi/2.2 km span between the firing cab and the test data bunker.

Particles and radiation from different locations (corresponding to different events inside the bomb), moved through these pipes, completing their transit before everything was destroyed except for Station 1200.

This was the Bravo shot sandspit. Towers to the left reflected light from different locations around the bomb casing, to extremely fast streak cameras in an instrument bunker, miles away. (LANL)

Bomb radiation and particle diagnostics data were captured in this heavily reinforced instrument 1200 station bunker.  (LANL)

These banks of oscilloscopes recorded neutron, x-ray, and gamma radiation directly from the bomb casing, 1.4 mi/2.2 km away, through vacuum pipes.

Station 1200 was entirely engulfed inside a rapidly expanding fireball similar to this from a later REDWING barge test, east of the Bravo site. The Bravo nuclear fireball that reached out to 2.2 mi/3.5 km from the bomb, within 1 second of time. (LANL)

The speckles were debris from the bomb and barge structures, swept out with the fireball's surface. A darker, hem-like pair of lines along the middle were the Y-stem. Y-stems are the combination of incidental and ground reflection waves, magnifying the destructive power.

A prominently brownish-red color strongly generates in large yield weapon fireballs, a property of nitrogen dioxide. Atmospheric nitrogen gas oxidizes in the tremendous heat, moderately eclipsing the overall light emission for a moment, until the outer layer of smog thermally scatters in the extreme temperatures. Therefore large thermonuclear weapons produce two light emission peaks in sequence.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas in the laboratory. Courtesy of Wikipedia


There is the initial brightest flash. Then it grows darker as the nitrogen dioxide haze increasingly darkens the overall luminosity as the vaporizing bomb fragments expand along the outside of the fireball. NO2 rapidly disperses in the heat, increasing the brightness once again.
 EG&G DOMINIC Bluestone Shot

This is a suspected BRAVO fireball sequence, heavily filtered against film emulsion burning and overexposure. (Lookout Mountain Laboratory)

Two Dodge M37 3/4 ton trucks were parked next to the BRAVO shot cab. An update is in progress to improve the sand's color.

Viewing the Bravo aftermath clarifies the extreme speed of the line of sight data capture process, ending in colossal destruction of the region. This crater is 6,500 feet (2,000 m) in diameter and 250 feet (76 m) in depth. (Scene from the highly dramatic, must-see historical film, Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie

The Romeo EC-17 device was located in the firing barge's white cab. An LCM-3 (Landing Craft Mechanized) was parked in front of it, to the left, and a larger LCT to the right.

Note the milkiness of the water, caused by the Bravo device's destruction of the area 26 days earlier. This turbid effect was first observed after the 10.4 MT Mike test at Enewetak Atoll in 1952, lasting a year.

The Romeo test from 50 miles/80 kilometers away

Map of BRAVO and ROMEO craters at Wikimapia 
 Courtesy of Wikimapia
Notice the fingerprint to the right-center, as captured from the transcription optical window, when the film was captured from celluloid to Betacam SP broadcast tape during the security screening. This was an official "Oops," courtesy of Uncle Sam:

The Romeo test viewed from Enewetak Atoll, over 250 miles/400 km away. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Operation IVY (1952)

 The MIKE fireball

The KING (superoralloy/"SOB") 500 kiloton Mk-18 prototype bomb detonates north of Runit Island, at 11:30 AM local time, 16 November, 1952.

The KING bomb was created as a strategic, high yield stockpile weapon in case the MIKE test failed.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Atomic Energy Commission's General Advisory Committee chairman, pushed solely for the superfission technology after World War II, until the 1951 Teller-Ulam design emerged, for various reasons:
  •  ethical problems of the strategic use of hydrogen bombs on civilians, as opposed to smaller yield attacks on military targets.
  •  practical reasons of no potentially workable design until 1951.
  •  the additional, very high costs of changing reactor production to include tritium, necessary for thermonuclear weapons.
Thus the KING design was created out of a Mk-6D basis, adding a 92-point implosion mechanism and removing plutonium from the core.

The KING name followed the code of kilotons-range yield, as opposed to the M for the megatons yield range of MIKE.

Oralloy is an abbreviation for Oak Ridge alloy, from the Tennessee fuel production source of its highly enriched uranium-235 core. The core was surrounded by a natural uranium-238 tamper that also goes supercritical -- meaning explosive rate fission -- in a flood of high energy neutrons.

What is there to do with the lack of color information in such darkness? The noise explodes. Questions linger in the impression of the nearly empty shadow to his face, compounded with the aging of the film emulsion. That cursed neutral filtering ....
Hadley interrupts his introduction to the IVY series to light his pipe, which he smokes throughout the film. At times he conveniently uses the mouthpiece stem as a pointer.
Time grows short before the MIKE test.
Presenter Reed Hadley informs why the firing is remotely controlled from out on the sea. The unpredictable nature of the test's very high yield makes it far too dangerous to allow a firing team on Enewetak Atoll.
There is much to test on different settings and techniques in bad color and VHS head noise reductions.Severe bands of opposite composites of warm and cool ranges of colors slowly move up the picture. Minimizing them is a vexing task.

Hadley points to the shot location of MIKE (which represented a megaton-range test) at Enewetak Atoll, US Marshall Islands. At shot time, the USS Estes, a firing control ship using a narrow television beam to trigger the explosion, was 10 mi/16 km south of the southern end of the atoll, and encountered a yet powerful blastwave 35 mi/56 km from ground zero.

The map's subtle island colors were recovered in a technical battle against the result of the terrible Betacam SP (broadcast tape) to VHS transcription. The format change created severe, alternating colorband artifacts on the original tape, that continually sweep upward throughout the film. Alas, the authorized derivative declassifiers (ADD wonks) who edited these films in national security interest are no Otto Premingers ... they specialize in nuclear weaponry or applications directly related to nuclear device tests, such as containment.

Wow, the noise issues. The Air Force producers at Lookout Mountain Laboratory used the common method of the times, in film processing simulation of pre-dawn darkness with neutral density filters. There were light sensitivity problems of Kodachrome I film in nighttime darkness. This is why many 1950s cowboy films have oddly strong outdoor shadows during "night scenes" actually filmed in daylight. This neutral darkening fostered film aging problems, after elimination of originally strong color information. 

Remarkably, the relatively short public broadcast version of this film, ordered by incoming President Eisenhower, bypassed the simulated darkness technique, leaving daylight and maximized color information intact.

Many of the film segments were recorded in the weeks and months before the tests, so as not to interfere with the concentration of personnel on their highly time-sensitive tasks on shot day and onward.

Those are the USS Rendova and USS Curtiss, respectively for fighter / helicopter security support and weapons assembly. The Curtiss was so secret that it was intentionally kept out of the US Navy ship registry.
Corrections of frame shake are a testy process, seeing how severe they can be. More trials are required.

Similarly, audio crackle, hum, and pop minimization methods have limitations. It's difficult to separate junk from meaningful information.

Major General Percy Clarkson, supreme commander of Joint Task Force 132's Operation IVY (and later Task Force 7's CASTLE series in 1954), was a marvel in history. Clarkson was earlier field commander of the 33rd Division, and faced intense action in among the most brutal battles of World War II, clearing out fanatical Imperial Japan's control from New Guinea to the Philippines. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Operation TEAPOT Military Effects Studies (1955)

This is the opening scene of Operation TEAPOT Military Effects Studies
The operations library symbolizes the growing base of knowledge gained by nuclear testing in Nevada.
The 1955 TEAPOT series were a military AFSWP command program. AFSWP is spoken as "aff-swahp."
TEAPOT was completed during the May desert wildflower bloom.

A soldier with the US 4th Army, based out of Fort Sam Houston, TX, inspects construction during Desert Rock VI.

8000 Department of Defense troops conducted tactical maneuvering exercises in the vicinities of shots BEE and APPLE II. Observer programs involved shots WASP, MOTH, TESLA, TURK, BEE, ESS, APPLE I, and APPLE II, for a total of approximately 11,700 in DoD participation. 

Extensive instrumentation was always an important part of nuclear testing, to gather data for advancing mathematical models and battlefield applications in blast and radiation physics.

Wiancko blast gauges were installed in different configurations over varying radial distances from ground zero, in both free-air and near-surface underground tests.

Data of fallout intensity and physical characterics were recorded in this rotating incremental collector, using an electronic aperture, in addition to steel buckets and sticky paper stations.

 The ESS (Effects Sub-Surface) test device's diagnostic casing is prepared for insertion into the placement shaft, with the center of the device reaching 67 feet/20 meters below ground level.

ESS was an effects test of cratering and ground shock, during early development of hand-portable tactical nuclear munitions.

The 1.2 kiloton ESS device test detonates at the northern end of Yucca Flat, Nevada. Light enough for a single Special Forces demolitions expert to carry in the field, this weapon was sometimes called the "atomic satchel." 

Much more lighting and other work is needed on this scene. That fingerprint again ... . [FACEPALM]

Fair Use image for historical instruction
Notice the cylindrical U.S. Army "Ridgeway" field caps that dominated the 1950s style, until the Vietnam conflict era. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Matthew B. Ridgeway instituted the uniform regulation changes to include starching and an internal frame, to keep its shape.

The ESS cratering summary's dynamic diagram shows some color improvement.

The 4 kiloton HORNET test's 300 foot (90 m) tower was readied for its firing during the Nevada Winter season, with snow on the ground.

Notice the fingerprint smudge left by the film ADD (authorized derivative declassifier) official, in the optical window where the film was transcribed to broadcast tape, when it was sanitized for security release.

The smaller towers next to the 390 foot (120 m) shot tower (right) held materials for effects studies within and close to the nuclear fireball.

MET was 22 kilotons in yield, using a hazardously radioactive U-233/plutonium hybrid core, to save money with less, notoriously expensive plutonium. Uranium-233 always has a U-232 impurity that is a strong gamma ray emitter. These cores required heavily shielded, remote control handling for assembly.

The 15 kiloton GRABLE shot of Operation UPSHOT-KNOTHOLE 1953 was a proof-test of the 280 mm Mark 9 atomic artillery shell. Burst height was approximately 500 feet / 152 m.

A second objective was a blast effects on military materials and vehicles experiment, to closely examine the hugely destructive precursor (thermal surface) wave phenomenon.

Separate black and white oil fogs (far right) tested precursor wave attenuation, but high surface winds caused problems with the experiment, by mixing the two clouds. Low altitude nuclear fireballs generate so much heat, surface soils erupt into the air, in a process called "popcorning." This added dust-loading in the air magnifies the blastwave's hammer-like blow. 

The HORNET test repeated the ground oil fogs test that failed during GRABLE.

Characteristically reddish-brown NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) was formed in the oxidation of atmospheric nitrogen in the tremendous heat of the nuclear fireball.

More work is required to clean up this scene. This was only a basic color test. 

Sandy soil surfaces explode into the air from the thermal pulses of low bursts radiating at least 11 (dark) -15 (light) cal/cm². The photo is from the 1952 TUMBLER-SNAPPER Dog test (shot 4), when this wave phenomenon was first recorded, moving from left to right. A blast effects smoke generator plume (center) was a common tool to calculate free air overpressures at different locations from ground zero, using technical high speed film techniques.
Operation TUMBLER-SNAPPER Technical Report film

This scene is terribly monotone, and therefore it is difficult to distinguish color regions.

Vehicles in the background also need to be processed, and the mountains up to the right.

The Final TEAPOT Tests
23 March 1955 - 15 May 1955

Defense Nuclear Agency 6013F

Mannequins represented effects on human subjects. Here masonite figures were unloaded from an M135 truck and film-badged for radiation exposure measurements in a contaminated area.

According to the 6013F DNA report, two crews worked quickly at these tasks, spending 10-15 minutes in the area.

 MET test vehicle damage

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nuclear Effects at Sea (1975), Section 1

500 tons of high explosives test large overpressures on a target ship, as one of three massive explosions in Operation SAILOR HAT in the Hawaiian Islands. [Click left link to see the crater]