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Does a nuclear explosion in outer space generate space waste at all?

  1. Sep 10, 2010 #1
    Since all the auxiliary parts of the bomb are instantly vaporized, there may be little solid waste left. However, if the vapor does not expand fast enough, or cools quickly, liquids and solids may nucleate again and cause a problem. Another point is that any waste exceeding the escape velocity of Earth will disappear quickly. So what will exactly happen? Is it safe to detonate a nuclear bomb in outer space without jeopardizing the space industry?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2010 #2
    Nuclear weapons testing options during the 1960's included the possibility of detonating a nuclear bomb behind the Moon. This would be out of sight (direct electromagnetic pulse) from low-orbit space satellites.

    Bob S
  4. Sep 10, 2010 #3
    Thanks for that interesting piece of information. I overlooked the fact that EM pulse is also damaging. However, my question is specifically about whether space waste will be generated. Anyone?
  5. Sep 10, 2010 #4
    When atmospheric detonations were allowed, in the 60s the US detonated a nuclear weapon at about 400 km above the Earth. This created an artificial belt of trapped electrons, akin to the naturally occuring Van Allen belts. My understanding is that this was a "separate" 3rd belt. It was said to have persisted for over 5 years.
  6. Sep 16, 2010 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    I do not believe the detonation of a nuke would present a serious hazard in physical matter left behind. Most of the matter would be in single atoms or in molecules which would be spread out over a large area and wouldn't simply collect back together in orbit or anything.
  7. Sep 17, 2010 #6
    There has been a detonation in the ionosphere and caused satellites to malfunction and ground communications stoped for a few hours. After this test there has not been any test in space with nuclear bombs because of the damage caused. I don’t know if the missile test on the moon was nuclear but it would be pretty hard to find water if you heat the surface to a few thousand degrees.
  8. Sep 17, 2010 #7
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