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Weird question about Nuclear Weapons

  1. Feb 3, 2010 #1
    This might seem like a weird question, but I was just wondering about it. If a nuclear bomb were to go off in space, would it destroy satellites, the ISS, and everything else that's orbiting the earth moderately close to the explosion?

    I'm not sure if the explosion would expand in a vacuum, but I think that energy of some sort would definitely be present. I just don't know if it could destroy things.

    What if it were an atomic bomb?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 4, 2010 #2
    Hi there,

    If a bomb (of any type) would explode in space, it would become dangerous for the other objects out there. Mainly, if not only, from the debris created from the explosion.

    I don't believe that the energy freed from any detonation would have any effect on the objects out there.

    Cheers
     
  4. Feb 4, 2010 #3

    QuantumPion

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    Here's a good overview of the effects of nuclear weapons in space:
    http://history.nasa.gov/conghand/nuclear.htm

    To sum up, because there is no atmosphere, there is no shock wave and not much thermal radiation (because there is no air to heat). So the primary effect is simply radiation, but again without atmosphere, the radiation will not be absorbed so the intensity will be higher to much larger distances. According to that link, a small 20 kt warhead would produce lethal dose at 20 miles, where as an atmospheric detonation you would have to practically be in the fireball to receive a prompt lethal dose.

    As for how that affects satellites, I don't know if they would be significantly affected because satellites are usually made to withstand the radiation of space and can shut themselves down automatically to protect themselves from higher amounts of radiation (e.g. during solar flares).
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010
  5. Feb 4, 2010 #4

    sophiecentaur

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    It's a shame that Fig 1shows the three effects in that way. There is no indication of the relative 'lethalities' of the effects - just their values in (arbitrary) units.
     
  6. Feb 4, 2010 #5

    QuantumPion

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    If you read the description, figure 1 is for a 20 kt weapon detonated at sea level, the units are psi, cal/cm^2, and roentgens. Figure 2 shows roentgens for a 20 kt weapon in a vacuum. They define lethal radiation as 500 to 5000 roentgens, and that blast of 4 to 10 psi is enough to destroy most structures, and 4 to 10 cal/cm^2 is enough to cause severe burns.
     
  7. Feb 4, 2010 #6

    sophiecentaur

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    OK but, if they want to put all three curves on a single pair of axes, they should really be normalised. The units are just arbitrary; I wouldn't normally expect to see psi or cal/msq in everyday technical life and I'm not all that familiar with radiation measures (although I now know about the 'Roentgen Equivalent Man). I see that "the solid portions of the curves" represent significant effects but that seems to have been lost on its way to my screen.
     
  8. Feb 4, 2010 #7

    turbo

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    Any weapon that produces an EMP has the ability to fry the electronics of satellites, stations, etc that are sufficiently nearby. I don't know how "hardened" our satellites are made (that's going to be top-secret for any satellite with a military application, including GPS), but with the cost of lofting stuff into space, it is likely that most of the circuitry is highly miniaturized (light) and delicate to EMP.
     
  9. Feb 5, 2010 #8
    so the superman film is wrong. the bit where he takes the bomb into space and it releases the 3 baddies,with the shockwaves?
     
  10. Feb 5, 2010 #9
  11. Feb 7, 2010 #10
    fact is it is banned to do that because of all the dammage it would do to satellites and ground based electrics,they tried to blow a hole in the radiation belts and created a 3rd belt,wonder why they wanted a hole in it ? :) last thing even the depleted uranium bullets that are getting used on the other side of world is still killing us,took f knows how many years to except x rays was bad for us (1 person worked it out but was ridiculed),even after we relised x ray machenes were bad we still kept using up to 40 times the radiation needed,
     
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