(ORDO NEWS) — Chinese military scientists have published a technique that allows mass destruction of satellites over a given territory using a hydrogen bomb.
Moreover, this one differs from the previously proposed or even tested methods of anti-satellite warfare with nuclear weapons by the selectivity of the damaging effect.
According to its developers, a specially organized charge detonation should only affect vehicles on specific orbital planes.
The proposed method involves the explosion of a warhead with a yield of ten megatons of TNT at an altitude of 80 kilometers.
In this case, air ionization will occur and gas will be released four hundred kilometers up at a speed of up to 2.3 kilometers per second.
The resulting plasma cloud will become a trap for satellites flying over the place of detonation.
They will encounter denser than normal environments and slow down a bit, and the residual radiation will damage the electronics.
The height is chosen specially – it is not cosmic, but also atmospheric. If you bring the warhead above the Karman line, then the resulting explosion will be dominated by electromagnetic effects (EMP).
And the decay products of fissile matter in the charge form radiation belts. The result will be damage to a much larger amount of equipment both on Earth and in space – it will also affect its satellites.
Well, undermining below the selected point will lead to the release of the “gas trap” to a lower height.
Simply put, 80 kilometers turned out to be the optimum for such a task, and the plasma cloud, consisting of heavy ions, will quickly descend back into the atmosphere, and the orbit will become safe again.
Starlink was chosen as a target for a reason: the Chinese military and politicians consider the “constellation” of communication satellites from SpaceX as a national threat.
First, they can provide Internet access that is difficult to block and nearly impossible to filter. And secondly, each of the constellation satellites is a potential interceptor for other spacecraft.
They can maneuver and are relatively inexpensive, and there are still a lot of them (more than three thousand by the fall of 2022).
Scientists from the Northwestern Institute of Nuclear Technology ( NINT ) presented all their considerations and results of computer simulation in a scientific paper published in the journal Nuclear Techniques ( He Jishu ).
The publication itself is not publicly available, so one of its authors told the South China Morning Post online publication some details of the study .
It should be noted that some details of the modeling raise big questions, and it is not yet possible to get acquainted with the text of the work.
For example, was the risk of destruction and casualties on the surface of the Earth taken into account when using such weapons.
Thermonuclear explosions at a similar height have already been carried out – in 1958, the United States tested Teak as part of Operation Hardtack.
A charge with a capacity of 3.88 megatons of TNT equivalent worked 76.8 kilometers above Johnston Atoll.
Several people who watched the explosion in the open air near the epicenter felt such heat on their skin that they could not stand it and hid in a shelter.
Subsequent analysis showed that the heat flux at the earth’s surface reached one calorie per square centimeter.
This is still not enough to cause burns, but very close to the threshold value – 1.2 calories per square centimeter (according to US occupational safety standards).
A two and a half times more powerful explosion at a similar height risks not only causing burns to bystanders, but even blinding them.
Finally, the most controversial point is the effectiveness of such weapons.
According to Chinese scientists, a cloud of ionized gas will spread over an area of 140,000 square kilometers (less than 0.02 percent of the Earth’s surface area).
That is, given the scale of near space at altitudes of at least 500 kilometers, very few satellites will fall into such a trap. If the calculations are correct and no radiation belts are formed, the EMP will be weak.
Otherwise, there is a risk of damaging a huge number of devices indiscriminately – Starlink , our own, others, allied or enemy.
Fortunately, no one is going to check the simulation, and nuclear tests in all environments (under, on and above the ground) have long been banned.
Curiously, in addition to satellites, the authors of the work propose to use such powerful warheads against hypersonic weapons.
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