Index Home About Blog
Subject: Re: Starfish Nuclear Test?
From: Henry Spencer <> 
Date: Mar 22 1996

In article <> (Thomas C. O'Reilly) writes:
>...the US detonated 6 nukes in space, and
>the Soviets exploded at least 3. The following handy table is taken
>from that publication:
>Teak            ?               76 km           8/1/58          Johnston I.
>Orange          ?               44 km           8/12/58         Johnston I.

Actually, these two tests are considered upper-atmosphere tests, not space
tests, by most standards.  The 1962 test series that included the Starfish
space test also included several high-altitude atmospheric tests.

>Argus 1         1-2 KT          480 km          8/27/58         38S, 12W
>Argus 2         1-2 KT          480 km          8/30/58         50S, 8W
>Argus 3         1-2 KT          480 km          9/6/58          50S, 10W

The Argus tests were 1kT bombs at varying altitudes, in fact.  They were
quite secret at the time, and were done for a specific purpose:  testing
how well nuclear bombs could pump electrons into the magnetosphere, and
whether the electrons would persist.  If you could pump up the Van Allen
belts well enough, they would fry any nuclear warhead passing through
them, and this would make a very effective defence against long-range
ballistic missiles.  Fortunately or unfortunately, the conclusion of the 
tests was that it wouldn't work well enough to be practical.

>Starfish        1.4 MT (!)      400 km          7/9/62          Johnston I.

Technically this was Starfish Prime; the original Starfish had a launch
failure.  Missiles were not too reliable then; one of the other tests in
the same series succeeded on the fourth try.
Americans proved to be more bureaucratic           |       Henry Spencer
than I ever thought.  --Valery Ryumin, RKK Energia |

Index Home About Blog