One of my most famous projects, the first ever animation (to my knowledge) of an Orion-drive spacecraft. Orion was devised in the 1950's, in a brief, strange period when there was much less (if any) stigma attached to nuclear bombs. The idea was to use the tremendous power of nukes to propel ships into space. This wouldn't just be a case of "single stage to orbit", it would be more like, "single stage to Saturn". A more detailed article on Orion can be found on my blog.
I re-rendered a short clip of this in HD. The original shows the bomb sending a rather languid flow of plasma toward the ship. In reality, the entire sequence from detonation to plasma hitting the pusher plate and re-expanding would be over in much less than a millisecond. Also, since this grew out of an undergraduate project, I wanted to illustrate the fact that most of the mass of the bomb can be directed toward the ship - it would not expand in a sphere.
Don't forget to also check out Deep Space Force, the unfinished militarised version, and Discovery Orion, a 2001 variant. Both of which have much more realistic depictions of the pulse cycle.
Text links take you to hi-res prints and renders available for purchase at StockTrek images.