For a low altitude atmospheric detonation of a moderate sized weapon in the kiloton range, the energy is distributed roughly as follows:
50% as blast;
35% as thermal radiation; made up of a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum, including infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light and some soft x-ray emitted at the time of the explosion; and
15% as nuclear radiation; including 5% as initial ionizing radiation consisting chiefly of neutrons and gamma rays emitted within the first minute after detonation, and 10% as residual nuclear radiation. Residual nuclear radiation is the hazard in fallout.
Considerable variation from this distribution will occur with changes in yield or location of the detonation.
In an atmospheric detonation, this electromagnetic radiation, consisting chiefly of soft x-ray, is absorbed within a few meters of the point of detonation by the surrounding atmosphere, heating it to extremely high temperatures and forming a brilliantly hot sphere of air and gaseous weapon residues, the so-called fireball.
Propellant (water or wax) surrounding the bombs would be transformed into high-energy plasma and bounce off a pusher plate at the rear of the rocket and push it forward. Shock absorbers would even out the ride. Although the plasma from the explosion would have a temperature of 80,000 deg K, the impulse would be brief and only a tiny layer of the ablative pusher plate would sublimate after each explosion. A method was developed of 'greasing' the plate between explosions to protect it.
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