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Featured Sci-Fi Space Battles: Lasers or Projectiles

Discussion in 'Sci-Fi and Fantasy Talk' started by Tom, Mar 5, 2015.

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  1. Lasers

    7.7%
  2. Projectiles

    19.2%
  3. Both

    53.8%
  4. Something Else - Please Comment

    19.2%
  1. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

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    I was reading about Lockheed Martin destroying a truck engine with a laser today.
    http://www.gizmag.com/lockheed-martin-laser-truck/36377/

    It got me thinking about what would be the most effective weapon system to use in a space battle, Projectiles or Lasers?



    Lasers:
    • Uses heat to destroy a target
    • Must be actively maintained on target
    • Not affected by gravity
    • Has high energy requirements
    • Dissipates with distance (must maintain focus)
    • Does not require storage space
    • Does not deplete its stores
    • May require charge and recharge time
    • Is straight-line targeted



    Projectiles:
    • Uses matter and mass to destroy a target
    • Can be equipped with guidance, explosive or specialty devices
    • Can be set to a location as a mine (With relative speeds in space even a static object is a collision problem)
    • Maintains its integrity over distance
    • Is affected by gravity
    • After launch, requires no additional energy
    • Needs large storage space
    • Depletes its stores
    • Can be rapidly fired with no cool-down or recharge time
    • Can be used as an emergency maneuvering tactic
    Only our current Shielding and Armour technology should be considered. Alien or Future technology would warrant a different weapon system.
     
  2. Alan 47

    Alan 47 Scout

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    From what I've read lasers don't work in space they seperate for some reason , I can't tell you science about why though it was a long time ago when Ronald Ragan wash president of the U.S. , he wanted to build satelites with lasers to shoot down enemy missiles , they nicknamed it the Star Wars program

    Unless now there solved that problem projectile based weaponry is all we have
     
  3. screenersam

    screenersam This is news, Vincenzo, NEWS!

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    maybe some of each. I remember late 1970s Star Trek game with phasers / disruptor bolts / photon torps and they came up with 'drones', a type of missile.
    I wonder about 'other' non-kinetic weapons. particle beam maybe.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particle_beam
     
  4. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

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    Sounds like they would work but the beam of light wouldn't be visible. That would be good for stealth fighting where a ship might be a 'hit & run' shot but for a dogfight battle it could be a problem.

    Here's what I found on HowStuffWorks about it...
     
  5. Alan 47

    Alan 47 Scout

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    Sounds like they have perfected the technology over the last 40 years , it says at the bottom that the person who wrote that piece didn't know of one SF show or film that didn't show a beam of light in space

    I do , the Space 1999 episode war games when the base was attacked by mk9 hawk interceptors they just flashed from a beam emitter under the nose and no long or seperate rounds of laser were seen :D
     
  6. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

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    A few years ago I read an article about what the best space ship would be like. The article was slanted toward propulsion systems and only briefly touched on weapons. In that article the best possible design of a space ship was reasoned to be a sphere with propulsion covering it. Space is a near vacuum and micro-gravity. You can't bank in space. There is nothing to bank against.

    Using this realization, Projectile weapons being fired would play havoc with attitude control. Newton's 3rd Law states "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." There would need to be some kind of Mass Compensator to nullify the projectile's launch reaction. Using this as a guideline, Lasers would be the most efficient weapon.

    With a spherical propulsion system, a really fast computer and plenty of fuel, a weapons/tactical station could fire a simultaneous burst of propulsion from the opposite side of the craft nullifying the reaction mass of the projectile launch. The calculations could not be done manually because proximity of objects on the stabilizing side would affect the amount of propulsion needed.
    If you fired a round(s) while alongside another ship, not only would you blast off from the ship you are protecting, the ship you stabilized against would also deflect. Your counter propulsion would need to be reduced from what it would be if alone in space.

    Laser firing would also be a complex maneuver. Photons have mass as well. The mass is tiny compared to a bullet but it is mass all the same. Targeting a laser on a moving target in the same spot will take a tremendous amount of calculations in the propulsion systems attitude controls. Currently (as far as I know) lasers operate by using heat to burn thru a material. They do not actively punch into it - the process takes time. Time on target on a moving target from a moving source. Not only is there lateral movement there is also radial movement that will need to be compensated for in targeting.

    A projectile weapon can also be used as a proximity weapon. If an explosive charge is detonated in the vicinity of a craft that is near other crafts the reaction against the craft can cause it to collide with anything nearby. In those types of battles, a Defensive propulsion protocol would be needed. In a heated battle the computer systems of both the offensive and defensive ships would be severely tasked. In my opinion, battles would be long and drawn out with very few shots fired. You wouldn't see all out, fierce exchanges like in movies.

    Plus remember this. If you are moving at 900 mph and you fire a weapon lateral to your direction of travel, your ship is going to veer away from path at 900 mph. Without considering compensation of reaction mass you go into a spin or a spiral. Even small fighters would need massive computing power to be effective.
     
  7. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

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    Lasers can be seen in space. Space is not a void, there are particles, gas and dust. Sometimes the particles are extremely sparse but they are there all the same. Lasers might appear as a broken beam as it hits those particles.
    While not apparent to the eye, a computer system with the right precision sensors may be able to 'see' the beams in a tactical display.

    Just remember that for every particle a laser reflects from the beam strength is diminished by the loss of those photons. This might explain why lasers are deemed ineffective in space. The longer the distance the more scattered the beam.
     
  8. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

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    How does electro-magnetic weapons (aka: "rail guns") come into play?
     
  9. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

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    I used the Metal-storm Video for that reason. Explosion propulsion would definitely not be the way to go. In the video, metal-storm is mounted on a tripod. Additionally, the tripod supports the guidance and firing computers. But you can notice that during firing there is a minimal kickback. I believe even rail-guns would need some type of mass compensator. I imagine it this way...

    You have this big box of vacuum with the same microgravity in it as you find in space.

    Floating in the center is a gun. It fires and the bullet moves one way and the gun the other, all away from the explosion in the middle.

    Now there is a rail-gun floating. The mass of the bullet is far less than the mass of the gun.
    It fires and the bullet moves faster than the gun but both move because the magnetic repulsion that fires the bullet also fires the gun.

    Now there is a powerful flashlight floating. You activate the beam and it continues to float unchanged. What you don't see is the beam end is getting slightly hotter than the battery end. Over time the beam end expands against the cooler battery end and there is movement. Lasers are extreme flashlights. Conditions in space are extreme temperature variations. Firing a laser would be the least costly in mass compensation but it would still need some stabilization.
     
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  10. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

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  11. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

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    Thats a nice explanation of railgun recoil and compensation. It works for planet based guns.
    In space, anything that the weapon is attached to will transmit the forces as well as absorb some of it.
    Even minimal deflection in space can mean major trajectory changes.
    Imagine firing while moving .75c?
     
  12. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

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    For that degree of accuracy, wouldn't naval ships be facing the same issue?
     
  13. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

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    Funny you should say that because while composing the above reply watercraft did enter my mind. I didn't expound on it because space craft is the focus of the thread.
    I have been on a naval vessel when it fires main guns and there is a noticeable flex and sway. In the amphibious assault group the LST ships were flat bottomed. They walked all over and needed a counter force while we loaded the causeways.

    Navy ships still have much more resistance than space ships. Keels and thrusters keep the straight-line course.
    Water and air are thick substances compared to vacuum. The technology currently exists to maintain a target with mounted gyros and computer controls to make accuracy possible. Buoyancy features of the ship's design prevent rollover to a degree that can be compensated for.

    [​IMG]

    As cool looking as Space Battleship Yamato is, The physics of a real space battle would send it spinning uncontrolled thru space. The stabilizers on the keel, the deck and the aft sections would do absolutely nothing in space. Firing the forward or aft guns would make the whole ship tumble end for end in space even if fired in line with the ships hull. Firing them starboard or port would spin the ship on its ventral axis. Any combination of directional firing would have it flip flopping in any number of crazy spins.

    On the lower picture of the seafaring Yamato you can see a keel stabilizer rail. Those rails, the width of the ship and the resistance of the water helps prevent roll over during side firing. In space there is no resistance. Those keel rails could be two hundred feet wide and have no affect at all.

    On the upper picture if you follow the line of the gun barrel, firing would set that path to motion. Even if the ship was thrusting from its main engines firing the forward guns in straight-line as pictured would cause the ship to veer downward. The aft guns firing would veer the course upward.

    [​IMG]

    The Borg Sphere is the closest I have found to the most effective Space Battleship design. Even it is not quite right for a battle. Not only would it need firing tubes all around it, those firing tubes would have to also double as counter thrust jets. Firing tubes would need to be stationary, using the sphere's attitude controls as targeting. If the firing tubes were gyro targeting a series of angled fires could set it to spinning wildly. That would call for some very serious computer power to stabilize.
    The Borg use a pulse laser system of condensed photons. Our technology is far from that reality. Even if equipped with our best laser systems of the near future, this design would require serious computing power to maintain time on target. Radial and lateral drift of the sphere would have to be accounted for as well as target movement. Even with gyro mounted firing the lasers would need to be pulsed in a targeting sequence to keep the heat on the targeted point. It might look like a strobe moving around the sphere as the nozzles heat up cherry red to white hot. I think it would be a cool effect to see.
     
  14. geronl

    geronl Ensign

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    Those are some very limited and limiting choices. It is science fiction I am sure we can come up with more.
     
  15. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

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    I limited the choices because I want members to explore other methods for discussion. The two I did reference are the methods most commonly depicted and closest to actual science.
    Reference 'Space Balls' - Jam the radar!
    A space craft could emmit a goop that clogs up the enemy's ship. (I guess even goop could be considered a projectile tho?).
    It might be interesting to explore your ideas - please expand...
     
  16. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

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    AI've seen time used as a weapon, dimensional rifts used as a weapon and gravity used as a weapon.
    What else?
     
  17. geronl

    geronl Ensign

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    "Gravity used as a weapon" like repulsion rays or maybe you could simply squash the enemy if they were easy targets. You could always drop a bridge on them like happened to Captain Kirk (I hated that scene). You could use such a weapon to throw meteors at their home world ("Star Blazers"/Space Battleship Yamato).

    I have a story somewhere where a prototype ship "last hope for humanity", opened a vortex to move from one place to another (ripping a hole in the fabric of space-time) but had to use this once to open a vortex near an enemy fleet where the other side was in a star, wiping out the enemy. In that particular battle at least.
     
  18. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

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    Wormhole weapons - cool!
     
  19. screenersam

    screenersam This is news, Vincenzo, NEWS!

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    reminds me of the scene in Yellow Submarine; "I've got a hole in me pocket."

    I unnerstand we will soon have laser-equipped killer satellites (if we don't already). will WWIII start in space?
    logic dictates you blind the enemy if possible. I suspect our guys have scenario(s) 'in case of war neutralize this list of satellites'.
    rumor is we has a high-altitude laser-equipped aircraft that can do this.

    does anyone know; have lasers been succesfully used on any battlefield yet?
     
  20. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

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    Yes, but not as a weapon.
    Lasers are used as targeting
     

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