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"What are most likely to be the first space weapons?" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP15 Oct 2020 8:47 p.m. PST

"I'm trying to write a mostly realistic space story, and kind of hit a wall when it came to weaponry, so here's the question:

What would be the first weapons to be put on a spacecraft? Due to physics and complicated sciency stuff I don't understand, you can't exactly strap an AK-47 to a rocket and expect it to work.

With my limited knowledge of space physics, I think the first weapons would probably be projectile launchers that just throw a piece of metal into space with springs or gas cartridges. However, throwing anything out of a spacecraft make sit go the other way, however small, so you need to counter that with another piece of metal, or use fuel or something, which in the long run isn't all that good if you cant recharge or whatever very often…"
From here


Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP15 Oct 2020 10:18 p.m. PST

Daggers at 0.5 meters.

Stun guns too, since those little barbs can't weigh much.

Both for fighting inside of ships and space stations.

Hand lasers/phasers(?) for out in space, since throwing projectiles willy nilly into orbit is not a good idea, since it might come back around to impact your ride, or your space suit, eventually.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP15 Oct 2020 10:28 p.m. PST

Ship-to-ship weapons will probably start with missiles, which we're pretty good at already.

Next up will be fusion-drive powered death rays that fill the enemy's ship with flying sharks! With lasersss!

cloudcaptain16 Oct 2020 4:50 a.m. PST

Definitely time to dust off the Gyrojets:

noggin2nog16 Oct 2020 7:02 a.m. PST

Probably the spacecraft themselves – put a reinforced point on one end and ram the opponent. Any hull breach will likely be fatal to a crew. (Kind of like ancient galleys in space).

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2020 7:57 a.m. PST

I think missiles are an obvious first – after all, as noted by Oberindes, we already have them!

zircher16 Oct 2020 8:06 a.m. PST

Since aerodynamics is not a thing in space, missiles could take on a number of shapes. For example, an X shape with micro thrusters on the ends to increase agility.

Andrew Walters16 Oct 2020 8:37 a.m. PST

I can think of zero reasons why an AIM-9 Sidewinder wouldn't work in space. Ditto the AMRAAM.

Stryderg16 Oct 2020 9:05 a.m. PST

The very first weapons will be harsh words, quickly followed by a sternly worded letter.

Then missiles, probably with proximity fuses and directional explosive warheads, like a claymore mine.

Or, as per one of Larry Niven's novels, the thrusters of the ship pointed in the general direction of the enemy's face.

noggin2nog16 Oct 2020 9:18 a.m. PST

The Sidewinder is steered using canard wings – they wouldn't have any effect in vacuum (same as any aerodynamic surfaces). So, as long as the target doesn't move, they'll be OK.

Andrew Walters16 Oct 2020 9:55 a.m. PST


A quick google tells me the AIM-120 also steers via its fins.

The third stage of the RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 can maneuver outside the atmosphere, but the first two use fins and the final stage can't be used independently.

I'm still going to say missiles, though. Auto cannon are great if the target doesn't maneuver. Yes, recoil is an issue, but you can compensate with maneuvering thrusters, which you need anyway. If the firing vehicle is, let's say, the mass of a fighter jet the course change resulting in firing the auto cannon won't be that significant in terms of fuel.

Think of the A-10 firing its GAU-8. It definitely affects flight, the pilot has to compensate. But it doesn't reduce the aircraft's combat range in a measurable way. After all, it's got 1100 rounds of ammunition so at 3900 rpm that's less than twenty seconds of thrust during the entire flight.


Bottom line, it's a story, and narrative needs outweigh physical reality. You can justify missiles, guns, or beams pretty easily, even in hard sci fi.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2020 11:30 a.m. PST



Toaster16 Oct 2020 11:58 a.m. PST

The USSR actually built and tested a space borne autocannon during the cold war. Saw an article a while back on the net so it should come up on a quick google.


Covert Walrus16 Oct 2020 1:54 p.m. PST

Tango quoted some nong who said -

you can't exactly strap an AK-47 to a rocket and expect it to work.

Despite what "Firefly" would have you beleive, most modern weapons will fire in space, or at least in a vacuum; the cartridge contains all the oxidant and fuel needed to drive the bullet, and the only major problem could be freezing in the cold of space affecting the metal and the lubricants in the weapon. Given the AK is particularly suited for cold weather, that may *not* be such an issue for the first few rounds.

Toaster, you are correct: The "Almaz" satellite was armed with the same gun as was monuted in the rear of mid-production Tu-22 bombers as a tail defense weapon; The RM23M 14.5mm. The exxperiment was also a test if using a projectile firing system for making changes in attitude and orbit was feasible, as the ammo and gun was about 40% lighter than a gas or rocket manouvre system, mass being a big factor in satellite design. A slightly biased but decent write-up on the project here link

HMS Exeter16 Oct 2020 4:13 p.m. PST

Let's start adapting our paradigms. There is a move afoot to have the US Space Force employ naval ranks. As such, the projectiles would be "torpedoes," not "missiles."

joedog16 Oct 2020 4:55 p.m. PST

Rocks, scrap metal, etc. used to create a debris field would damage/destroy a spacecraft.

Space blunderbuss…

RudyNelson17 Oct 2020 8:07 p.m. PST

Back in 1984, I did a set of tactical space combat rules for a miniatures company. Some of the weapons for none atmospheric, none gravity environments included shredding bullets, based on plastic bullet weapons on that era, conclusion and light and sound incapacitating grenades with low shrapnel. Laser and disrupters could have settings that would not penetrate walls.

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