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Orbital Fighting [Star wars is a good example]


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Hey, Nyrath has come to play! It's too bad the recent forum outage nuked the Kerbal Interplanetary Defense Initiative. Before the forum outage deleted a good chunk of forum posts, some enterprising players had really interesting designs for stock weapon systems. I think would have been interesting for you considering the subject matter of your website.

Kerbal Space Program is currently a good place for missiles and small drones/fighters. Modded laser weapons have a limited range of 2.5km because that is the range of the "physics bubble" around ships. So current weapon designs are all kinetic killers, trying to slam into something with as much relative velocity as possible. There is an upper limit to how fast you can slam into something too, since if you are moving in a frame further than the collision box of your target, you will pass right through it (Essentially teleporting to the other side of the object). So effective KSP stock weapons are relatively heavy, so that they can pack more kinetic power while moving slow enough that they wouldn't pass through their target. A good example was a design posted for a high velocity "bouncing betty mine" type planetary defense. It launched high thrust rockets covered in chaff that enter into a wide ballistic flight. It creates a cloud of debris passing in front of orbiting enemies that is difficult to avoid and tends to shred targets badly.

Despite these limitations, some players have made some decent combat ships. One KSP youtuber named Macey Dean even runs mock battles with his carriers. Although they are clever designs, they demonstrate the weakness of a spacecraft that launches smaller attack spacecraft.

he uses craft he calls "fighters" but would more accurately be called "bombers".

he rethinks his loading scheme and tests his ship against a ground launched bomber craft.

he creates a battleship that launches missiles, and it is a vast improvement over his carrier and fighter design. Edited by Hammer Wizard
Just fixing some grammar mistakes I spotted. There are probably many still undiscovered!
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Indeed, I believe rail guns involve passing a large current through the projectile, likewise coilguns typically involve some kind of powered coil within the projectile, even with a permanent magnet projectile in a coilgun there would be some heating of the projectile making it standout like a sore thumb against the cold background of space. It's tough to imagine a launch mechanism that doesn't involve imparting enough wasted energy of some kind that would make it detectable.

Catapult. Big, huge siege catapult. Or a Y-shape slingshot the size of a mountain. Or a spring-loaded tube kilometer deep. Impossible to use on a a decent-sized planet, but more effective on a asteroid. No heat, no electromagnetic discharge of any kind. You can hide it from optical sensors in a deep crater or a chasm. To find it you would have to look for seismic activity in the area. What about those? :sticktongue:

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Catapult. Big, huge siege catapult. Or a Y-shape slingshot the size of a mountain. Or a spring-loaded tube kilometer deep. Impossible to use on a a decent-sized planet, but more effective on a asteroid. No heat, no electromagnetic discharge of any kind. You can hide it from optical sensors in a deep crater or a chasm. To find it you would have to look for seismic activity in the area. What about those? :sticktongue:

Catapult = friction = heat. Not sure about the other two. Although I imagine they also produce heat. How much, idk.

Edited by Person012345
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Catapult = friction = heat. Not sure about the other two. Although I imagine they also produce heat. How much, idk.

Yup. Also, sunlight = heating = IR re-radiation. Just in case he can find a magic launch mechanism that has 100% kinetic efficiency (something impossible due to thermodynamics anyway).

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I can imagine a situation in the future where you may have manned fighter space/air craft. A warzone where the crafts ferry personnel between worlds.

Or alternatively maybe the species is distrustful of AI, and unmanned drones are non-existent. Maybe after a Terminator-style apocalypse.

Catapult. Big, huge siege catapult. Or a Y-shape slingshot the size of a mountain. Or a spring-loaded tube kilometer deep. Impossible to use on a a decent-sized planet, but more effective on a asteroid. No heat, no electromagnetic discharge of any kind. You can hide it from optical sensors in a deep crater or a chasm. To find it you would have to look for seismic activity in the area. What about those? k_tongue2.gif

Much more effective on an asteroid. Launch a big mass at a big speed, and you can wipe out an entire continent!

Edited by SunJumper
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Hey, Nyrath has come to play! It's too bad the recent forum outage nuked the Kerbal Interplanetary Defense Initiative. Before the forum outage deleted a good chunk of forum posts, some enterprising players had really interesting designs for stock weapon systems. I think would have been interesting for you considering the subject matter of your website.

Kerbal Space Program is currently a good place for missiles and small drones/fighters. Modded laser weapons have a limited range of 2.5km because that is the range of the "physics bubble" around ships. So current weapon designs are all kinetic killers, trying to slam into something with as much relative velocity as possible. There is an upper limit to how fast you can slam into something too, since if you are moving in a frame further than the collision box of your target, you will pass right through it (Essentially teleporting to the other side of the object). So effective KSP stock weapons are relatively heavy, so that they can pack more kinetic power while moving slow enough that they wouldn't pass through their target. A good example was a design posted for a high velocity "bouncing betty mine" type planetary defense. It launched high thrust rockets covered in chaff that enter into a wide ballistic flight. It creates a cloud of debris passing in front of orbiting enemies that is difficult to avoid and tends to shred targets badly.

Hammer Wizard, it sounds like it was a blast, I'm sorry I missed that thread.

Once again I am in awe of the cleverness of KSP. Let me explain:

Yes, as you stated, some of the behavior of things in Kerbal's physics engine are not quite according to reality, e.g., 2.5 km limit on lasers. But that's OK. The point is that there is behavior.

When I was growing up, many SF fans including me were enamored of the hard science novels of Larry Niven. In the years since, many have pointed out the scientific inaccuracies in the novels. That does not matter. The point is that in the novels there were the rules of physics, and many of the novels presented the protagonists with puzzles which could be solved by the application of the rules of physics. Us SF fans were taught that there were rules, and by playing the game you could solve the puzzle. Very similar to a mystery novel, can you solve the mystery before the detective calls all the suspects into the living room before the fireplace?

In other words, they teach you the method of science.

Kerbal like Niven might have a few of the details of physics incorrect. But the players and readers can learn latter the little details. The important thing is that they have learned how to play the game of science. This is why I get so excited about forum posts talking about young children becoming addicted to KSP, and learning about rocket science all by themselves.

By doing exploration and experimentation in the Kerbal universe, people have discovered in that universe kinetic weapons are superior to laser weapons. That's an impressive accomplishment.

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If there was to be space combat, it would be pretty simple. I imagine flak-like weapons would be king, as missiles could be directed away and most dumb-fire things could be evaded, Most people would no doubt die from lack of oxygen due to suit integrity compromises.

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Nyrath, I used to go to the KIDI thread religiously (even if I posted rarely), and I loved every page of it. Most of it was stock, too! :) Let's hope we slowly rebuild the new one into something close to its former glory. From there, I think I learned the basics of KSP space "combat". And the answer was pretty stunning: it is surprisingly rocketpunk-like! Let me explain further.

Basically, if you go stock, the only option you have is to go kinetic. But, you have no clever computer to do the aiming for you, all the flying is manual. So, managing long-range intercepts is almost impossible, and pure luck if you manage to hit your target at more than 100m/s. As a result, you have to first get close to your target, roughly match velocities, then go for the (hopefully) kill. The implications of it are that the closing speed of projectiles are fairly low. What does that imply, in turn? Well, a bunch of stuff. First, massive projectiles pack much more punch. They are almost a must, if you want to really break stuff. Second, armor actually makes sense: the new plates (and the old wing parts) can shrug off a surprising amount of damage. People where actually building multiple-layered armors! And they were effective! Of course, a good big SRB could punch through pretty much anything, and what it didn't blow up it could knock loose. But that takes a big ship to get up... And last, but not least, all of the combat had to happen fairly close, mostly inside the 2.1kms physics sphere, where the combatants could spot each other using the old Mk I eyeball.

So what is the end result? Space combat in KSP was awesome, even if it resembled very low tech levels that would never happen in real life. Like massive armor-plated battleships closing on each other before unleashing smart missiles (one by one) and/or salvoes of dumb torpedoes. I think that is a good thing, and made for some great videos like the ones from Macey. :)

Of course, with mods, you could tear down some of this limitations. Mechjeb gave you very accurate information, so you could plan high speed interceptions, like Scott Manley showed a couple of times: say goodbye to armor. The Lazor mod could vaporize anything coming inside a 2.1kms sphere, and had a perfect aiming tool: good point defense if you have the time to select the incoming projectiles and blow them off one by one. That is surprisingly realistic, too (other than lasers would have much greater ranges IRL). But I think stock made for a better show, IMO.

But then again, this is a game with real-life Newtonian physics, so perhaps it shouldn't be that surprising that the combat ends up being realistic...

Rune. And that's why I love KSP so much.

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Has anyone else read "The Reality Dysfunction" by Hamilton? There were plenty of things in the book that outright broke the laws of physics like ftl, however once in system everything seemed to settle down.

Ships were fusion torch ships and weaponry came in two forms, oddly powerful communication lasers, and combat "wasps." The lasers came in various wave lengths and strengths and often in rather large numbers, all were capable of sending info too just to pass as non weaponry for legal purposes. Combat wasps were small autonomous torpedoes with some small lasers and a fusion warhead that they could use as an area blast to destroy flights of enemy wasps or as a shaped charge for hitting the enemy vessel. Commands were given too wasps before launch and then they headed off at 40+gs acceleration, combat lasted seconds and usually came down to who had more wasps. Combat distance was small as a slowly incoming wasp could be shot down by a laser and many wasps close together could be taken out by 1 wasp so you had to get close enough that a wasp flight could approach from many angles.

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Combat wasps were small autonomous torpedoes with some small lasers and a fusion warhead that they could use as an area blast to destroy flights of enemy wasps or as a shaped charge for hitting the enemy vessel.

There are some pictures of Hamilton's combat wasps here:

http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacegunconvent.php#id--Drones

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what about a missile carrying a "bomb pumped x-ray laser warhead" ala David Weber's "Honor Harrington series? I admit there is a lot of handwavium and unobtanium used by the author, but the missile concept

used by the author seems somewhat reasonable. if feasible it would give your weapon a stand off attack ability and still give you a slight chance to try to dodge the return fire.

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what about a missile carrying a "bomb pumped x-ray laser warhead" ala David Weber's "Honor Harrington series? I admit there is a lot of handwavium and unobtanium used by the author, but the missile concept

used by the author seems somewhat reasonable. if feasible it would give your weapon a stand off attack ability and still give you a slight chance to try to dodge the return fire.

In theory bomb pumped lasers should work quite well. The only problems seem to be engineering, which goes away if you throw enough money at it.

http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacegunconvent.php#id--Laser_Cannon--Bomb-Pumped_Lasers

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what about a missile carrying a "bomb pumped x-ray laser warhead" ala David Weber's "Honor Harrington series? I admit there is a lot of handwavium and unobtanium used by the author, but the missile concept

used by the author seems somewhat reasonable. if feasible it would give your weapon a stand off attack ability and still give you a slight chance to try to dodge the return fire.

It would be a single-shot weapon, but it would be a mean one. Of course, the rocket would be there mainly to get some distance between you and the nuke going off, the laser has more than enough range on its own. On the other hand, a carrier-sized FEL would be able to keep on firing all day long a similar laser... and then repeat that the day after. So I guess relative cost and expected number of shots would make the call.

Rune. Nukes ain't cheap, too.

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Nyrath, i have a question. I'm intrigued by the infamous Casaba Howitzer concept. I get that overall range of the missile depends on the rocket the warhead is strapped to. But what happens after warhead blows up? How long would be this "lance of nuclear fire" (love the name btw :D)? Kilometers? Hundreds of meters? I guess the answer is buried somewhere inside the wall of math there, but finding it is way above my head.

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To be fair I don't think armour would have much protection against kinetic weapons. As we have established space battles will be very long range so kinetic weapons will have a very long travel time. Sensors will detect any kinetic weapon soon after there launched. They could be destroyed easily by canons or lasers (Much like the missile defenses we use today). Also with a less armour you have a lot less weight wich would allow a ship to menouvre a away from kinetic weapons.

What they would be worried about would properbly be laser weapons as they have almost no travel time. They could have weapons that would destroy vital parts or cook the crew alive in a split second. I'm thinking armour would be reflective armour wich will spread the beam out in every direction. It could also have electro magnetic fields to divert plasma weapons around the ship.

Of course there would be protection against small small kinetic weapons or debris. But overall hull armour won't be to importent a factor. I think that most space combat will be based on laser weapons as a mean to disable enemy crafts and use kinetic weapons to finnish the kill or board the enemy ship.

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Nyrath, i have a question. I'm intrigued by the infamous Casaba Howitzer concept. I get that overall range of the missile depends on the rocket the warhead is strapped to. But what happens after warhead blows up? How long would be this "lance of nuclear fire" (love the name btw :D)? Kilometers? Hundreds of meters? I guess the answer is buried somewhere inside the wall of math there, but finding it is way above my head.

Yeah, I'd like to know that as well. Unfortunately that is still classified. The best information I have is from here

http://www.up-ship.com/eAPR/ev2n2.htm

and it is sketchy.

Scott's best gestimate is that the Casaba Howitzer rounds would be little more than a specially modified Orion nuclear pulse unit (optimized as a weapon instead of propulsion), with a "pancake" solid rocket booster attached to the base (with about the same proportions as a hockey puck, burning for only a split second), and a reaction control system to allow it to keep itself aimed at the target.

He figures the round would only have to travel to a safe distance away from the launching ship, perhaps only a few hundred meters, then detonate the nuke, forging the lance of nuclear fire. He estimates that the nuke would be a few kilotons, and up to 50% of that destructive force would be in the lance. Whatever got hit by the lance would go poof!

The lance will be traveling several times faster than 150,000 meters per second.

He estimates that an Orion drive battleship armed with Casaba Howitzer in low Earth orbit could destroy all the ICBMs in an hypothetical Soviet nuclear first strike, and any lances of nuclear fire that missed their targets would only be partially dissipated by Earth's atmosphere, creating impressive damage on the ground.

This implies a range of at least 2,000 kilometers.

Sorry, that's the best I got.

Edited by nyrath
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Depending on the tech available, anti-kinetic weapon armour could be developed. A multilayer whipple shield would provide a lot of protection, using several angled layers would stop a fair amount of deltaV from a projectile. Aerogel layers don't mass that much, polycarbonate foam would also work.

If you want to go full tank, encasing your ship inside a giant ball of ice would provide you with locally available reaction mass, a nice deep thermal sink, protection from projectiles and lasers.

As for sensors detecting incoming projectiles, passive sensors aren't fast and require fairly large collection arrays... delicate exposed arrays. Active sensors have the downside of screaming "SHOOT ME!!"

Best to hand off your active sensing to remote drones or drop a series of emitters and activate them at need.

In terms of stealth, there are many radar absorbing materials used today as well as many light absorbing materials available. Any projectile could be engineered to produce a minimal return for active sensors and while the projectile would have some thermal signature it would be easy enough to just overload your target's point defense by firing hundreds of them continuously along with chaff, flares, party poppers and a few missiles carrying jammers and other toys.

Edited by falofonos
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Like most people said here, star-wars battles are terrible bad example. "ship" designs are basing on ocean ships (engines on back, and ship "stopping" when engines are OFF) and naval fighter planes maneuvering like atmospheric aircrafts. This is complete fantasy and has nothing with real space flight.

Military space crafts on low orbit are vulnerable (no chances of evasion) to missiles launched from the ground - you don't need to reach orbit, only fast put anything on collision course with orbiting spacecraft and sheer speed of target made the damage.

In interplanetary war (mars insurrection or whatever made-up scenario), weapon of choice could be large energy weapons like lasers, so every enemy spacecraft in transfer orbit to one planet could be eliminated months before it would even reach target and not spread more debris and deadly missiles/projectiles around our system - every conventional projectile/ missile is additional debris added to environment.

Anyway, picture of humanity ,so advanced and still fighting each other is very sad.

Edited by karolus10
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What about plasma windows http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_window as a anti-laser armour? Obviously they are power-hogs, but with engagements lasting mere seconds would it be possible to shield vital areas of the ship? I imagine such armour would look like a honeycomb framework/scaffold around the hull, with holes wide enough to allow firing the weapons and using the sensors. Plasma window would be generated only over individual holes at any given time - those most exposed to enemy firing vector, or covering most valuable areas. Overall, it would be like All-or-nothing armour design, but proactive. I vaguely remember something similiar used in Homeworld: Cataclysm game - there plasma shields were generated by replaceable drones scattered in a spheroid formation around protected ship.

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