List of artificial radiation belts
|Explosion||Location||Date||Yield (approximate)||Altitude (km)||Nation of Origin|
|Hardtack Teak||Johnston Island (Pacific)||1958-08-01||3.8 megatons||76.8||United States|
|Hardtack Orange||Johnston Island (Pacific)||1958-08-12||3.8 megatons||43||United States|
|Argus I||South Atlantic||1958-08-27||1-2 kilotons||200||United States|
|Argus II||South Atlantic||1958-08-30||1-2 kilotons||256||United States|
|Argus III||South Atlantic||1958-09-06||1-2 kilotons||539||United States|
|Starfish Prime||Johnston Island (Pacific)||1962-07-09||1.4 megatons||400||United States|
The table above only lists those high-altitude nuclear explosions for which a reference exists in the open (unclassified) English-language scientific literature to persistent artificial radiation belts resulting from the explosion.
The Starfish Prime radiation belt damaged the United Kingdom Satellite Ariel 1 and the United States satellites, Traac, Transit 4B, Injun I and Telstar I. It also damaged the Soviet satellite Cosmos V. All of these satellites failed completely within several months of the Starfish detonation.
Telstar I lasted the longest of the satellites damaged by the Starfish Prime radiation, with its complete failure occurring on February 21, 1963.
In Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory report LA-6405, Herman Hoerlin gave the following explanation of the history of the original Argus experiment and of how the nuclear detonations lead to the development of artificial radiation belts.
- "Before the discovery of the natural Van Allen belts in 1958, N. C. Christofilos had suggested in October 1957 that many observable geophysical effects could be produced by a nuclear explosion at high altitude in the upper atmosphere. This suggestion was reduced to practice with the sponsorship of the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense and under the overall direction of Herbert York, who was then Chief Scientist of ARPA. It required only four months from the time it was decided to proceed with the tests until the first bomb was exploded. The code name of the project was Argus. Three events took place in the South Atlantic. ... Following these events, artificial belts of trapped radiation were observed.
- "A general description of trapped radiation is as follows. Charged particles move in spirals around magnetic-field lines. The pitch angle (the angle between the direction of the motion of the particle and direction of the field line) has a low value at the equator and increases while the particle moves down a field line in the direction where the magnetic field strength increases. When the pitch angle becomes 90 degrees, the particle must move in the other direction, up the field lines, until the process repeats itself at the other end. The particle is continuously reflected at the two mirror points — it is trapped in the field. Because of asymmetries in the field, the particles also drift around the earth, electrons towards the east. Thus, they form a shell around the earth similar in shape to the surface formed by a field line rotated around the magnetic dipole axis."
In 2010, the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency issued a report that had been written in support of the United States Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack. The report, entitled "Collateral Damage to Satellites from an EMP Attack," discusses in great detail the historical events that caused artificial radiation belts and their effects on many satellites that were then in orbit. The same report also projects the effects of one or more present-day high altitude nuclear explosions upon the formation of artificial radiation belts and the probable resulting effects on satellites that are currently in orbit.
- Operation Argus
- The K Project
- Starfish Prime
- Operation Fishbowl
- Van Allen radiation belt
- High-altitude nuclear explosions
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
- Lists of environmental topics
- Nicholas Christofilos
- Hoerlin, Herman "United States High-Altitude Test Experiences: A Review Emphasizing the Impact on the Environment" Report LA-6405, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. October 1976  (Retrieved 2009-10-25)
- Hess, Wilmot N. (September 1964). The Effects of High Altitude Explosions (PDF). National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA TN D-2402. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- Zak, Anatoly "The K Project: Soviet Nuclear Tests in Space," The Nonproliferation Review, Volume 13, Issue 1 March 2006 , pages 143 - 150 
- U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency. "." DTRA Fact Sheets, November 2006. (Retrieved 1 June 2010).
- Defense Nuclear Agency. Report DNA 6039F. "Operation Argus." 1958.  (Retrieved 1 June 2010.)
- National Space Science Data Center: Telstar 1  (Retrieved 2009-10-25)
- Conrad, Edward E., et al. "Collateral Damage to Satellites from an EMP Attack" Report DTRA-IR-10-22, Defense Threat Reduction Agency. August 2010  (Retrieved 2011-06-19)