If countries go on a war in space, it is likely to be short-lived one and not nearly as glamorous as shown in films.
Reports emerged this month that both Russia and China are building space weapons and weapons that could attack space targets. This led to several speculations as to how it could work and if it does happen, what the repercussions of such an event could be. A report by Discover magazine points out that it would be disastrous for not just the satellites, but also for all other objects in orbit.
War on the surface of the planet or even in the sky has the advantage of all debris, no matter how large or small, coming back to the surface. That does not seem like much of a consequence until one considers what happens to things exploding in space. Unless they are manually pushed back down to burn up in the atmosphere, they just sort of float around.
"Everybody assumes that if we get somebody that shoots at me in space, we're going to shoot back in space. Well, that's a horrible idea," says Colonel Shawn Fairhurst, the deputy director of Strategic Plans, Programs, Requirements and Analysis at the Air Force Space Command.
"When you blow something up on the ground, it falls back to the ground. If you blow something up in the air, the aeroplane comes back to the ground," he says. "The problem is, when you blow something up in space, it creates debris that never comes down."
So if a few satellites get blown up in orbit from a missile launched from the Earth, tiny particles will stay in space. The report mentions debris act as high-speed projectiles, meaning that even a speck of paint is dangerous in orbit.
With little ability to control debris in space, broken pieces of satellites travelling at speeds exceeding 17,000 mph shred everything in its path, including other satellites. A speck of paint the size of a grain of sand reportedly left a half-inch dent on a Shuttle window, so shards of glass, metal and circuitry will cause a lot more damage.
That is why, even if one country's satellites are targeted, it has the potential to snowball into a catastrophe. This was reportedly documented when in 2007 the Chinese fired a missile at one of their own satellites.
"Our whole goal is not to have a war in space. A war in space is not good for anybody," Fairhurst says. "If you start destroying GPS satellites, you start taking away timing from businesses, the GPS on your Google will quit working. That's not good for anybody, that's a global problem that can have ramifications across a global economy very quickly."