Does anyone know of any modern (1990's - present) computer modeling of the Orion pusher plate and its reaction/survivability to repeated plasma impacts?
Regarding the 1950s/1960s Orion Project using nuclear pulse propulsion: I see a lot of statements that "Orion would have worked. The only thing stopping us is the political will." I am skeptical of this claim.
George Dyson's book included quotes from project veterans and modern experts who pointed out that some key questions remained about basic feasibility. Specifically, could the pusher plate survive the repeated plasma impacts? To my knowledge, two key questions remain unanswered in the public domain.
The first is regarding the erosion of the pusher plate and hinged on questions of the turbulence of the plasma stagnation zone at the plate surface and its opaqueness or transparency to UV. The interviewee claimed that this could be modeled by modern nuclear bomb software, but either nobody had done the work or they couldn't talk about it.
The second question regarded spalling of the pusher plate. It's possible that the shock wave would traverse the pressure plate and blow material off of the upper side. Orion was before HESH warheads were developed; I believe its designers were unaware of this physical process. Again, modern computer codes run by experts in armor, ballistics, and metallurgy could probably nail down if the pusher plate would spall, and if so would know if there are any modern materials or construction methods that could prevent it. Again, this may be "military grade" expertise and either the work hasn't been done or can't legally be divulged.
Do any of you space experts have any substantial inputs on this?