Joseph Shoer recently wrote about the physics of battles in outer space, an essay that came to my attention via Joni Sensel at the Spectacle and Gizmodo. It’s a long essay, but a rewarding one for people who want to think ahead.
Explosions are basically a waste of energy in space. On the ground, these are devastating because of the shock wave that goes along with them. But in the vacuum of space, an explosion just creates some tenuous, expanding gases that would be easily dissipated by a hull.Good to know.
No, to damage spacecraft systems, you can’t hit them with gas unless it’s really, really concentrated and energetic. So unless you want to just wait till your enemy is close enough that you can point your engines at him, the best bets for ranged weapons are kinetic impactors and radiation.
As for military spaceship design, Shoer added:
I think the small fighter craft would be nearly spherical, with a single main engine and a few guns or missiles facing generally forward. . . . Basically, picture a bigger, armored version of the lunar module.Well, that’s not nearly phallic enough, is it?
The larger warships would also probably be nearly spherical, with a small cluster of main engines facing generally backward and a few smaller engines facing forward or sideways for maneuvering.