Space Nuke Testing

I happened to read an article today that casually notes:

“It has been long known that U.S. authorities kept a lid on the possibility that the radiation belt Van Allen had discovered was the result of a Soviet atomic nuclear explosion. Although these suspicions were wrong, the U.S. began testing nuclear explosions in space in late 1958.”


I’ve never heard about this before. Did both the United States and the Soviet Union launch ICBMs and then detonate them above the atmosphere? Isn’t that a little dangerous? Where were they detonated?

It all seems a little unlikely to me. If the Ruskies called up Ike one day and said, “we’re going to launch an ICBM and then explode it–but don’t worry, we’re not aiming it at you,” he’d have likely sent everything he had after them, just to be safe. On the other hand, if you don’t inform your adversary, and they suddenly detect a blast above the atmosphere, aren’t they just as likely to misinterpret the blast as a failed, but nevertheless intentional, offensive strike?

That article is a load of hooey. No nation of earth has ever exploded an atomic weapon in outer space.

Nickrz sez:

Between August 27th, 1958 and September 6th, 1958, the U.S. launched three rockets carrying nuclear devices that were detonated at altitudes up to 482 kilometers (289.2 miles). This is well above the altitude of the orbiting space shuttle.


Film shot of one of these outer space detonations is featured in the video [i"]Trinity and Beyond*


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

I clicked on TRINITY AND BEYOND and got NOT FOUND.

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to relive it. Georges Santayana
That should work. There was an extra little bit at the end. The ubb code to end italics.


Sorry 'bout that. Try this:

Trinity and Beyond


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

You might also want to try this:

Nukes in Space


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

None of the links provide any factual evidence such explosions ever occurred.

Given the tensions between the superpowers before, during and after the cold war, any attempt at exploding a nuclear device in space would have become one of the biggest news stories of the period. I suggest it would have created a crisis that would have made the Cuban missiles look like a day in the park.

This is just another in a long line of conspiracy “they kept this a secret” theories
that don’t hold water. Many websites on the internet thrive on such garbage.

Hmmmmmmmm now wait a minute. While I don’t necessarily agree that they occured, saying that they didn’t without citing a source for that conclusion doesn’t do much to discredit a claim that does at least have some evidence to support it.

If I recall correctly in 1958 the US was having a hard time putting a basketball sized satelite in orbit much less something as heavy as an nuclear weapon.
As I understand it an a-bomb detonated at high altitude produces a strong electomagnetic pulse that damages most electronic components.
I was very young at the time but I don’t remember my parents having to replace our TV or radio during time period.

t lion

Please change “as an” to “as a”
Insert “that” between “during^time”
I engaged fingers before brain was up to speed.

t lion

Somehow I don’t think they could send nuclear things up with '58 techonology. That URL posted isn’t an official gov agency either.

Just too risky, think of what would happen if the rocket did not go up but came back down. Not to mention that electromagnetic pulse.

I remember watching “Trinity And Beyond”. It was very insteresting. In it they did say that they had several tests in which rockets would carry bombs into (almost)space and detonate them there. They did show footage of at least 2 of those tests; it was really interesting, the blasts were perfectly sphereical. The tests were conducted somewhere in the Pacific at night. I do believe they did mention that they said that radio transmissions on the west coast were interrupted.

I am doing additional research to provide indisputable evidence that the U.S. did indeed detonate nuclear devices in space in the late 1950’s. I will post additional citations as they become available.

In the mean time, let me address one of the issues raised thus far:

Putting a payload in orbit, as opposed to merely lifting a payload out of the atmosphere are two very different things. Any sufficiently powerful rocket aimed straight up can leave the atmosphere and enter space briefly. The first U.S. rocket to do this was launched on February 24, 1949. For more info: Redstone Arsenal Historical Information(the official site of the U.S. Army space flight program)

Another page on the same site confirmed the August 27, 1958 launch of “JUPITER Missile AM-7” whose mission was a “test of the warhead and fuze system as well as the solid propellant spin rocket and vernier motor”. REDSTONE ARSENAL COMPLEX CHRONOLOGY

I realize that this citation alone does not confirm that a nuclear device was detonated in space, but the evidence is mounting.

Stay tuned for more information…


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

What bugs me about those films is that they’re supposed to be the work of Peter Kuran, a well-known optical effects artist in Hollywood. His first work was the first STAR WARS film, back in 1977. I haven’t seen the films so I can’t comment on them, but is it possible that they’re the “anti-nuke” version of the Roswell Alien Autopsy film? says Kuran is just the editor, but still…

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to relive it. Georges Santayana

What kind of damage would an electromagnetic pulse had done in 1958? Did we have solid-state technology back then? Does EMP damage vacuum tubes?

Nothing I write about any person or group should be applied to a larger group.

  • Boris Badenov

I would think it would be pretty easy to send a small nuclear weapon into space, at least with some definitions of “space”. Is there an accepted catch-all definition of space? The reason I ask is, there was a German artillery piece (the Kaiser Wilhelm Gerat, I think) which sent its shells to “trans-atmospheric” altitudes. This was towards the end of the First World War.

I am guessing part of the problem here is our unclear definition of space. Anybody want to submit one? I haven’t got a clue.

This site says the Paris gun’s highest trajectory point was 24 miles. That probably doesn’t fit anyone’s definition of “space” any more. It’s higher than the service ceiling of an SR-71, though (ca. 16 miles, I think).

Anyway, I’m still curious if there is consensus on the definition of space.

I found it.

The U.S. Department of Energy official website (DOE Nuclear Weapons Test Film Descriptions) documents Operation ARGUS, a series of three high-altitude nuclear tests conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission in the South Atlantic Ocean in August and September 1958. Low-yield devices were carried to an altitude of approximately 300 miles by rockets before being detonated over the South Atlantic.

The DOE offers a 44 minute video of Operation ARGUS; a short, narrated RealVideo clip can be found at the above site.

Nickrz, do I hear the squeeeek of a closed mind being opened, or are we no longer in the business of stamping out ignorance?


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

My apologies to Peter Kuran. I’m convinced it really happened.

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to relive it. Georges Santayana