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Satellite Will Be Launched Into Space Using Converted ICBM Powered by Gunpowder

Next month, the Russian made Dnepr rocket will carry a European satellite into orbit. It's a very unique space vehicle. The rocket is an intercontinental ballistic missile launched from an underground silo. The first stage is a gunpowder charge:

Essentially, the rocket is packed inside a canister which is loaded into a silo.

At launch, a black powder charge underneath the vehicle produces rapidly expanding gases that pop the Dnepr up out of the ground like a champagne cork.

There is then this heart-stopping moment when the vehicle just hangs 20m above the ground before the first-stage motors kick in and the former war machine climbs skyward.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/03/riding-the-strangest-rocket-in.shtml via Knirirr's Wafflings | YouTube Video of a Dnepr Launch | Image: BBC

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB-vtc-d0Cg

You can see the charge get kicked sideways before the first stage ignites.
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Sounds like a good way to hide a first strike. As it passed over enemy territory you could just say there were errors in the design and cause enough confusion until it was too late. Of course you could only launch one weapon at once (but it could be a MIRV), but since it would be a surprise it might be possible to knock out the leadership of a country, because they wouldn't go into hiding like they would if they really thought a nuclear war was going on. "Oh that nuclear submarine near your country launching an ICBM is really launching a satellite."
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How things have changed over the past 30 years. Politics is a strange thing. I wonder if we will be so cool in 30 years time when North Korea have something similar ;-)
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