London, April 29 : Two new studies have determined that if a war ever breaks out in space, it will leave a destructive legacy, with resulting debris harming satellites for decades.
According to a report in New Scientist, the two studies were presented at the American Physical Society meeting in St Louis, Missouri, last week.
A commission chartered by the US Congress in 2000 warned that the US military's dependence on satellites would mean a space attack could be crippling.
Crucially, any space attack would increase debris, which can have a long-lasting effect on satellites.
According to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC, destruction of one 10-tonne spy satellite in low-Earth orbit "would double or triple the debris" in that zone.
Every new collision produces even more debris, triggering a cascade of satellite break-ups with time.
Last year, China heightened fears of a space war by testing an anti-satellite weapon, while earlier this year, the US destroyed one of its own defunct satellites using a missile.
But, researchers have said that the immediate impact of a space war, at least on the US military, would be limited.
"We have built up such high redundancy to space assets that we're almost invulnerable," said Geoff Forden of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He found that only a few of the US's low-Earth-orbit satellites are over China at any one time, and that higher-orbiting satellites used for GPS, communications and surveillance could only be destroyed by multistage missiles, for which China has only three launch pads.