The Physics of Space Combat

If you have ever watched a Space Combat and thought to yourself – ‘that’s complete rubbish, it’d never be like that’ – the chances are that you were probably right. One thing Hollywood has never really let get much in the way is accuracy – particularly when it comes to Space. If you are interested in how the business of war in space might actually take place, there is a fascinating article on the topic running on Gizmodo at the moment written by Joseph Shoer, a Ph.D. candidate in aerospace engineering.

One of the more interesting notes that the author makes is the complete impracticality of explosions in space. As space is a vacuum, the shockwaves generated by an explosion, which, while being very useful here on Earth, is completely useless in space. He suggests that in the end, the most useful weapon will most likely be the good old cannon or gun. He of course goes on to give it the much cooler name of kinetic impactor so as to sound more ‘spacey’, but in the end, it’s the same old gun that we are familiar with.

The article goes on to look at radiation as a weapon, the size and shape of spacecraft, and some of the implications for the various technologies that would need to be used. He also briefly compares the Hollywood and fictional styles of combat including Star Trek, Star Wars and Ender’s Game. Overall it’s an intriguing look at what an actual battle in space might look like in reality (and might even change how you are running that Alternity or Star Frontiers game…).

Read the article here…

DriveThruRPG.com

About RupertG

RupertG has been playing roleplaying games ever since he discovered Dragon Warriors at the age of 12. Since those days he has played many different RPG's, collected not insignificant Dwarf and Tomb Kings armies for Warhammer Fantasy Battles and even worked as a games designer in the heady days of the late 90's building a CCG. Now he runs a gaming blog and is a participant in the Grand Gaming Experiment
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  • mardo

    I would love to see this guy used as an adviser on a Sci Fi series ometime.

  • mardo

    I would love to see this guy used as an adviser on a Sci Fi series ometime.

  • Nicholas

    While it wasn’t the most realistic Space RPG in toto, as it has a decidedly aime feel, Jovian Chronicles by Dream Pod 9 actually has the most “realistic” space combat system I have seen based on actual physics. As such its kind of difficult to track, even simplified for a game.

    In a nutshell, the game uses Inertia on the X, Y, and Z axes. So if your Fighter has a speed/thrust of say 8, and you engage the engine to go forward, you have a speed of 8 on the X Axis. Inertia means you will continue moving 8X every turn. If the second turn you climb into the Z Axis at full speed, you don’t just go straight up as your forward momentum keeps you going forward as well as up.

    It is actually pretty cool but difficult to manage.

  • Nicholas

    While it wasn’t the most realistic Space RPG in toto, as it has a decidedly aime feel, Jovian Chronicles by Dream Pod 9 actually has the most “realistic” space combat system I have seen based on actual physics. As such its kind of difficult to track, even simplified for a game.

    In a nutshell, the game uses Inertia on the X, Y, and Z axes. So if your Fighter has a speed/thrust of say 8, and you engage the engine to go forward, you have a speed of 8 on the X Axis. Inertia means you will continue moving 8X every turn. If the second turn you climb into the Z Axis at full speed, you don’t just go straight up as your forward momentum keeps you going forward as well as up.

    It is actually pretty cool but difficult to manage.