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Any country could launch a nuclear satellite ?

Discussion in 'Space Technology' started by dcv, Sep 29, 2012.

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  1. dcv

    dcv New Member

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    Hello,

    I would like to know if it's possible for a country (a bad country) to launch a satellite, officially it's a meteorology (or telecommunication or other) satellite but in reality it's a nuclear bomb for create a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NEMP) ? Meteorology like that it's possible to place it at 400 km of altitude. Maybe before launching, satellite is controlled but like some technology are protected, NASA or worst ARIANE can launch a nuclear bomb without know it. After, the country can say, it doesn't work but in fact they wait the good time for explode the bomb and destroy a large area like Europe or USA.

    Maybe country which have money launched and will start NEMP when they want.

    The second point is any countries like USA, Europe, Russia and China have certainly launched atomic bomb, it's another fear. Why do that ? To respond in case of big attack.

    I remember De Gaule, he said at its chiefs the WWII will be different that the first, he's explain how it will be in details, nobody heard him, and this is what's arrive...

    Do you know how the satellite is controlled to be sure it's not a nuclear bomb ?

    Sure, it's difficult to predict if the explosion will be a E1 or E3 type of nemp. E1 destroy all electronics component, E3 destroy transformers.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2012
  2. Thiel

    Thiel New Member

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    First off, I really doubt there's any nuclear bombs in orbit. Nuclear weapons require frequent maintenance and are therefore rather unsuited for that sort of application.

    As for some random country launching one on a commercial rocket, I really doubt that. Even if you have the money they won't just let you send up any odd thing
     
  3. RobWilliams

    RobWilliams Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The first stumbling block to the idea that there may be nuclear weapons in space is the Outer Space Treaty signed in the late 60's which explicitly prohibits that from happening.

    Outer Space Treaty
     
  4. StobieWan

    StobieWan Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The other problem being of course, that any country with the technology to launch such a satellite would likely suffer as much as any intended target. It's like having a hand grenade fight in a greenhouse, it'll be messy.
     
  5. NobodyMinus

    NobodyMinus New Member

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    This is not as ridiculous as the rest of the posters in this thread are making it out to be. Plenty of countries (The United States included) have in the past been accused (perhaps accurately) of using LEO launch vehicle tests as missile tests. This is actually what the early phases of the space race are generally perceived as being about.

    The outer space treaty does in fact prohibit the placement of nuclear weapons in outer space. But treaties are not always adhered to, and often withdrawn from when they become too stifling (The United States was going to withdraw form the outer-space treaty if the nuclear-pumped X-Ray laser tested by the SDI worked, for example).

    So, what happens if you detonate a nuclear weapon in space for the express purpose of creating a large electromagnetic pulse?

    Let's examine what happened when the United States conducted its Starfish Prime high-altitude test in 1962. A W49 warhead (yield: 1.4 MT) was detonated at an altitude of 400 km (250 mi). The electromagnetic pulse it created was so much larger than expected that the instruments at the time could not register them, but it did knock out the power in the city of Honolulu, Hawaii 1,445 km (898 mi) away. I think that's quite a spectacular result.

    While such a thing is possible, no rogue state has developed thermonuclear weapons capability, and that is quite a jump from nuclear weapons capability. A very simple nuclear weapon can be made using only explosives and Uranium-235 (Called a uranium gun design, not widely produced because of the superiority of the plutonium pit method, but the Little Boy is an example of this type of device). A Tellam-Uller bomb requires U-235, Pu-239, Po-210, H-2 , Li-6, U-238, and probably another whole host of hard to acquire material that I can't remember off of the top of my head. After a someone develops initial refinery capabilities however, they aren't too far off (The United States tested its first two-stage weapon in 1952, 8 years after initially refining enough uranium and plutonium for the WWII weapons). So a state such as North Korea developing thermonuclear weapons is within the realm of possibility.

    Now, for the real question, why would anyone bother doing such a thing if they could simply deliver the weapon to a target like the major powers do with an ICBM? Well, it turns out that developing orbital launch capability is quite substantially easier than extremely long range ICBMs, even if the technologies are similar. Both North Korea and Iran have the ability to launch things into orbit, neither can deliver a missile to the US. Such an option would no doubt appeal to them.

    So, in summary, while a little off-color, the idea isn't as completely ridiculous as everyone else seems to be making it out to be
     
  6. StobieWan

    StobieWan Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It's called NORAD....
     
  7. NobodyMinus

    NobodyMinus New Member

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    Actually, tracking satellites after they're too cool to be easily tracked with SBIRS is a huge pain. There's a DARPA project working on it, though
     
  8. Lobos82

    Lobos82 New Member

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    The space station could send people out to do maintenance, but I think it would be a waste of time

    I'd also imagine that the entry through the atmosphere would probably be pretty rough for a nuke
     
  9. RobWilliams

    RobWilliams Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Lobos82, please read the forum rules about one liners. Please put a bit of effort in your posts to actually contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way, at the minute it just looks like you're trying to increase your post count.

    I do appreciate you're new here mate (so welcome aboard), so this is just a little reminder.


    www.defencetalk.com/forums/rules.php
     
  10. kennith

    kennith New Member

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    I do not think so it would be right to launch a nuclear satellite as there are already enough technology to defend oneself. A nuclear satellite would destroy the world in the wink of an eye, hence i do not support nuclear satellite launch
     
  11. Quiller

    Quiller New Member

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    The topic of this old thread has more relevance today than it did when it started in 2009. The idea for the use of Low Earth Orbit "LEO" delivery systems for nuclear warheads has been around for quite a while. It took on significant meaning when the cold-war USSR began to develop the Fractional Orbit Bombardment System (FOBS) in the 1960's. The prime reason for FOBS was to deliver nuclear warheads from a wholly unexpected direction to its targets -- more specifically an orbit could be chosen that would deliver nuclear warheads passing over Antarctica and sweeping up into the continental United States from the southern hemisphere. Since nuclear attack (and deterrence) were then predicated on existing ballistic missile systems that had to pass over the North pole to reach targets, NORAD's radars were primarily directed in that direction. The key feature of FOBS was it would represent a planned first-strike attack that would go virtually undetected at the time until the first explosions occurred in American airspace.

    Of course as already mentioned, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 banned nuclear weapons in earth orbit. The Soviets signed the treaty, but continued to work on the FOBS fundamental infrastructure of launch and support systems. Eventually the SALT II treaty prohibited all work on FOBS systems.

    So let's jump forward to 2016 - 2020. First keep in mind a FOBS type system, or the launch of one or more nuclear weapons into LEO, would modernly constitute a calculated nuclear strike on a target country. So the niceties of treaties and such would be swept away in the aftermath.

    Second, keep in mind that while EMP effects from nuclear weapons were known in the cold war era, the notion of using nukes PRIMARILY for EMP effects wasn't particularly on the table.

    Third, consider the notion that use of nuclear weapons by any country besides a major world power could actually be asymmetrical warfare. In fact, the use of a high-altitude nuclear EMP warhead could be more of a tactical prelude to a regional war than a strategic attack as an end to itself.

    Most commentators who talk about a nuclear EMP event envision the destruction of widespread power grids in a county, such as the USA, as a strategic end in itself. The narrative goes that with power out the country collapses in on itself: no hospitals, no vehicles can move, no phones, no computers, complete havoc, riots, wholescale deaths.

    But what if the use of an EMP is merely an opening degradation of C4 in a country's political and defense infrastructure to impede prompt and effective response to a more regional war situation?

    Imagine a country, such as North Korea, developing a nuclear warhead small enough to launch into LEO but big enough to trigger a significant, if localized, EMP event. Imagine also that the LEO follows an orbital path, say around the South Pole (or any other unexpected direction) that would place a surprise nuclear EMP event above the US east coast, positioned to "short out" C4 in the Washington DC area, encompassing the political infrastructure, the Pentagon and several other strategic military C4 assets. This would then be followed by, say, a massive invasion of South Korea.

    At issue: would the EMP event sufficiently degrade and delay an effective American political and military response to such an invasion to make it a fait accompli at some point in the hostilities? Would the US respond with a nuclear strike against North Korea if Korea's only nuclear use was a single EMP strike? Since precious few know the nuclear ROE in America's military and political establishment....who knows? But it poses an interesting strategic and tactical dilemma.

    And because of progress made by several countries in missile technology, nuclear weapon technology, and LEO satellite delivery technology today, this takes on more relevance than it had in the past.

    Finally, imagine China choosing such an asymmetrical course as a prelude to an invasion of Taiwan or the launch of a regional but otherwise conventional military attack against US and Japanese interests in the South China Sea. Again, it is unclear what the military response might be to a single, focused EMP attack against the US might be. Some might say any nuclear event, whatsoever, would rigger a massive nuclear response from the US, but there isn't much certainty about that these days, which begs the question: do other players in the geopolitical game think it is true or not?

    I recognize the above scenarios, and their progeny, have many political and military inhibitions and complications. And I would concede the Chinese are much more centered strategically than the North Koreans in their political and military thought. But these possibilities are, nonetheless within the realm of possibility given the advance of technology and the degredation of relations in that part of the world.