Orbital denial is like area denial but applied to the entire orbit of a planet or even a star. I don't remember where I first heard the term but I know Max Brooks uses it in World War Z and suggests that the controlled detonation of a single space station could be sufficient to shut down operations in Low Earth Orbit indefinitely. So how would that work? The question is twofold:
- How much material would need to be flying around that it couldn't be mapped and avoided with modern imaging and radar techniques?
- How big would the fragments need to be for modern space stations, capsules, and satellites to be at risk at standard orbital velocities?
For those unfamiliar with the parlance area denial is a strategy used in ground combat in which a section of the battlefield, or even of a whole country, is rendered inaccessible by virtue of containing a high density of "passive" weaponry (i.e. weapons that don't require an operator). Weapons used can be as simple as stakes in the ground or as complex as motion trigger machine guns but have traditionally been things that soldiers or vehicles "trip" by either standing on them or driving over them. The example case for orbital denial would use the same principle of a dumb object you have to run into but in this case it's debris and the kinetic energies involved are much greater.