# Have nuclear explosions in space produced any debris that was subsequently tracked, or did all of them completely self-vaporize?

This answer to Where in the solar system could a nuke be tested without anybody noticing? has got me wondering if nuclear explosions (nuclear tests) in space above Earth ever produced any chunks of space debris. Were there any objects from the exploding vehicles that were subsequently tracked or observed, or did all of them completely self-vaporize or at least only make particles too small to track?

• There have never been any nuclear explosions in Earth orbit. – prl Sep 7 '19 at 17:55
• @Fred, while it’s true that not all the fissile material takes part in the reaction, it is all vaporized, along with the rest of the bomb parts. – prl Sep 7 '19 at 17:58
• @prl okay I'll modify the wording, thanks for the heads-up! – uhoh Sep 8 '19 at 2:43
• @prl, sure, no nukes from a spacecraft that reached orbital velocity, but there were twenty above the Karman line. – Camille Goudeseune Sep 8 '19 at 4:41

Reports about the three low-yield 1.7 kT detonations of 1958's Operation Argus (the Wayback Machine's best link is 2011 Jun 11; 142 pages) are replete with references to radiation belts (Argus's purpose) and the radiation precautions for personnel. But not a whiff in all of that about even the possibility of space debris. Google's ngram shows that we'd hardly started talking about that until twenty years later, never mind figuring out how to track it or even detect it. Because the launches were suborbital, any energy imparted to debris to achieve orbital trajectory must have come from the detonation. It's a safe guess that any such energy transfer would instead have vaporized the debris: Hiroshima's 16 kT caused "complete destruction" for about a mile, which for this 10$$\times$$ smaller explosion equals a radius of the cube root of 5280 feet, or 17 feet, comfortably beyond the missile's radius. Again, nothing bigger to track than a cloud of molecules.