Any explosion in space might produce very fast moving projectiles, that after getting slingshotted by planets may pick up way more speed.

Same might happen with every bullet that misses. They are likely to be fired with fraction of light speed, then they can gain more speed.

Some shrapnel might leave the solar system, but many will be trapped in orbits around planets, sun etc producing a perpetual hazard.

This means everything in space must be heavily armored, which increases the cost of spacecrafts, propulsion and transporting materials. There cannot be any light fast crafts, everything must be covered in couple inches of metal.

Is this is possibility?

Edit: Thanks for the cool discussion guys.

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    $\begingroup$ The speed caused by the explosion will be small compared to orbital speed. But the interplanetary space is so incredible huge, it just can't be filled with supersonic lethal shrapnel. The probability of a hit will be very, very small. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Aug 1 '20 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ Any kind of space battle beyond shooting missiles at satellites, and especially anything using relativistic projectiles, is extremely speculative and may fit better on Worldbuilding than over here. What's mostly concerning is stuff in low-ish orbits around planets, and a society that has space battles can probably clean up space debris. $\endgroup$
    – ikrase
    Aug 1 '20 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ Any bullet "fired at a fraction of light speed" will be moving so fast that a) gravitational interactions from solar system objects won't be able to speed them up much more, and b) will be moving far above solar escape velocity, and (assuming it doesn't hit its intended target) will almost 100% certainly exit the solar system. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Aug 1 '20 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ Nothing is "likely to be fired with fraction of light speed" unless the fraction is pretty close to 0/C. $\endgroup$ Aug 1 '20 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ For reference, Earth's orbital velocity is 0.0001c, and anything at Earth's distance from the sun and traveling faster than 0.00014c with respect to it will escape the solar system. And as for explosions, the solar system is full of asteroids that occasionally smash into each other quite energetically: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/354P/LINEAR $\endgroup$ Aug 2 '20 at 1:05

What you are trying to define is known as Kessler Syndrome where a collision in space (your space battle example) generates shrapnel in orbit that then hits more satellites, breaking them up, which hit more, etc cascading into a point where you cannot launch to orbit since every attempt will get hit by the large amount of shrapnel.

The ASAT test the US did in the 2010's was low orbit on a satellite in the midst of reentering with a full hydrazine tank and thus the cover story of demonstrating their ASAT capabilities, and the bits and pieces deorbited fairly quickly.

The Chinese ASAT test was at much higher altitude and caused a lot of debris, but so far, not killed any satellites from it.

The Iridium collision generated a fair bit, but again space is big, so not yet at that point.

But we could in theory get there reasonably easily with just a few stupid decisions.

  • $\begingroup$ But the Kessler Syndrome is related to the Earth orbit and not to the interplanetary space. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Aug 2 '20 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ And how about those heavily armored space battleships with supersonic guns! i1.wp.com/www.tor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/… $\endgroup$ Aug 2 '20 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble: Of course, the debris will be cleaned up by Mega-Maid's giant vacuum cleaner. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Aug 3 '20 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ @uwe I missed the reference to interplanetary space. Upon re-reading I struggled to find it, but see it now. So I will then suggest that kessler is an analogy for the problem not the direct answer. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Aug 3 '20 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ @DrSheldon Suck, suck, suck! But first the code to the airlock! (Quick change the code on my luggage) $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Aug 3 '20 at 12:04

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