Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guncraft Diplomacy: Rough Draft Design of Basic Combat Spacecraft for Humanity

Warning: Hyperlinks to any webpage of TVtropes.org have been scientifically and clinically known to cause massive time loss in the browsing of its contents. you have been warned.

Before I continue, let me note that this is the first time I used the Microsoft Windows Seven’s Live Writer.

This time, we will review what is basically the rough idea of how combat spacecraft, and by extension combat starcraft, are roughly laid out in its most basic form. The idea, though Space Operatic at its core, is formed from knowledge and experience gained from both the websites Atomic Rockets and Rocketpunk Manifesto.

As typical of combat spacecraft in numerous science fantasy space operas, the spacecrafts of humanity are protected by Force Wall emitters. However, as this article recommends, Force Walls are not the only layer of defense. Rather the defensive systems are a multitude layer with force fields for smaller impactors that would (at best) deflect the incoming munitions, Point Defenses such as Laser, Kinetic, Missile, and Plasma for larger and (more often then not) more aggressive and force walled hostiles, and Force Walls to (primarily) defeat energy based munitions.

And before you get your knickers in a knot on plasma-based weaponry, the magnetic field that accelerates the plasmoid extends beyond the physical barrel. Though they only have a maximum effective range of about a kilometer. Oh, and before I forget, the Force Walls aren’t singular projections that could be easily penetrated if one only knew the exact wavelength. Rather, the Force Walls are segmented between emitters in a geometric pattern across the hall. This also helps in allowing munitions to bypass the force wall simply by turning off that particular segment. In fact, many offensive and defensive weapon systems have their own shield emitters that not only help the force wall wrap around the weapon turret (or similar) but can be turned off at the moment the weapon is fired.

As for anti-capitalcraft batteries, well there are the classical standbys such as Laser Emitters, Neutral-charge Particle Beam Cannons (which are often confused enough as realistic plasma beams and suits my purposes rather perfectly), Gauss Cannons, and missile batteries, in addition to the Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannon.

As explained in the HWDS section of the Interstellar Travel and Communications blog entry, the misnomer lexicon “hyperspace” Vortex Cannon is a loanword that effectively stuck despite efforts to make it technically more accurate. Moving on, the Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannon is a devastating weapon that bypasses any known defensive systems that can obliterate any object within its nearly two kilometer area of effect at a range of only a third of a light second (Carefully engineered so that the return pulse and weapon firing does not exceed a standard second). There is only one problem with the Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannon: It’s a spinal weapon.

That is, it can only target any hostile craft that is directly in the direction of travel to the combat spacecraft. There are advanced designs that allow for off-axis targeting, but only for a deviation of a single arc degree. As if that weren’t problematic enough, the Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannon is huge and complex to such a degree that it can only be fitted onto the largest of combat spacecrafts: Shock Spacecraft/Starcrafts (with only one Hyperspace Vortex Cannon), Assault Spacecraft/Starcrafts (with two Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannons), and Battle Spacecraft/Starcrafts (with three Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannons). The placement of the Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannon can vary from nation-state to nation state. More popular is to mount all Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannons forwards (or top), followed closely second to having only half the number of Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannons to point forwards and the other half backwards for at least Assault Spacecrafts and Battle Spacecrafts with the latter having two Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannons aimed at either directly into the path of travel or trailing. More rarely is to have all of the Hyperspacetime Vortex Cannons pointed in the same direction as the remass thrust. Those few justify that it would be paramount to have such a powerful weapon aimed at hostile targets at the climax of a skew flip for planetary capture.

As suggested by a commentor from Rocketpunk Manifesto (who, I have no idea), the Point Defense, Turreted and Spinal emitters of Lasers and Particle Beams (though the latter is only limited to Turrets and Spinal Mounts) all derive from a central Lasing/Particle Accelerator core mounted deep within the structure of the combat spacecraft with the use of heat-sinked mirrors and electromagnets to alter the path of the Directed Energy Munitions. Though the particle beam channels will mostly be curved since I have a feeling that charged particle beams don’t take too kindly to right angle turns. Oh well, it might give a kind of artful, organic design to the internal structure.

If you are one of the few who are wondering what other combat spacecraft classes I had in mind (for humanity at least), allow me to give you a glimpse into the madness. Patrol Spacecraft/Starcraft, Interceptor Spacecraft/Starcraft, Escort Spacecraft/Starcraft, Recon Spacecraft/Starcraft, Search Spacecraft/Starcraft, Strike Spacecraft/Starcraft, Defense Spacecraft/Starcraft (it lays mines as well), Drop Spacecraft/Starcraft, Landing Spacecraft/Starcraft Vehicle (LSV), Landing Spacecraft/Starcraft Armor (LSA), Light Spacecraft/Starcraft Base, Strike Spacecraft/Starcraft Base, Assault Spacecraft/Starcraft Base, and Battle Spacecraft/Starcraft Base. There are auxiliary/support/logistical spacecraft/starcraft, but I doubt there are those among you interested in such vessels.
These combat spacecraft classes are defined by treaty by the Galactic Alliance, akin to the Washington Naval Treaty. The actual specifics are rather detailed (I don’t write contracts, and by extension treaties) and beyond the scope of this blog entry, but in its core it effectively limits the number a particular combat spacecraft to any extrasolar nation-state based upon its civilian population per unit of astrotory. Even each spacecraft/starcraft must conform to a particular maximum mass, deltaV, HWDS performance, and weapon loadout to be defined as that particular class.

Did I forget to mention that ratification of the treaty is also a requirement for active diplomatic participation to the Galactic Alliance as a member?

And now, allow me to present unto you all the extremely bare boned layout of humanity’s combat spacecraft, color coded for your convenience. Also note that the ratio of the layouts are not fixed, just merely simplified for easier observation.

Many of you would be wondering by now exactly why the design is laid out horizontally like a ship rather than vertically like as expected of much hard sci-fi. Well, to be honest, I figured that it would be easier for you, the reader, to look back and forth between the image and the following color coded descriptions to have a basic idea of what I hand in mind.

The grey segments are the solid-state armor that is almost required for combat spacecraft (though civilian models would also require armor as they dive into the nearest star for HWDS-based interstellar travel) and nearly all orbital combat would mandate the armor to be focused towards the path of travel (or top for those inside the tin-can) and utilizing the Whipple Shield concept. Though many of you would notice a particular design choice and wonder why the armor is slanted rather than perpendicular to the rest of the craft. The answer is quite simple really: Sloped Armor.

This fundamental armor design solves many issues both real-world and literary. It solves the mass penalty issue inherent in armor designs since any penetrator (not sure about Directed Energy Weaponry, but I can only assume that the effects will be similar to its kinetic cousins) would have to burrow through more materiel or be deflected off due to the angle of the armor while at the same time lowers the possible minimum amount of said armor, and also justifies combat maneuverability for spacecraft in that the armor works if the sloped armor stays sloped compared to the path of the incoming round rather than perpendicular.

The armor also protects the leading edge of any radiator system to allow a combat spacecraft to have an extended endurance from waste heat (unless the attacker does an orbital rendition of “crossing the T”).

The blue rectangle is the habitat module where nearly all of the onboard spacer crew (and passengers in the form of espaciers and the like). Though don’t expect the habitat module to be as large as indicated in the above image. In fact, though several combat starcraft could reach and exceed the kilometer length mark, the actual habitation (barring access crawl spaces and Tele-Op Drone tunnels) would be little more elbow room than a contemporary attack submarine. The habitat module would also have a single sided radiator running parallel to the surface of the module itself.

The red segments are the spacecraft’s primary radiators. There’s little additional detail needed to explain them (as far as I see).

The green segments are the tanks, filled with remass, power core fuel, and the like to both power the spacecraft and provide thrust.

The yellow oval is effectively where the power core is located which primarily powers the combat spacecraft’s torch drive and onboard weapon systems. The type of power core varies by need from the traditional thermonuclear fusion and anti-matter to the Spacetime Expansion Flow Dam (SEFD), though naturally there are secondary power units strategically scattered across the spacecraft so that life support, force walls, and point defenses are still operational.

And finally, the purple segment represents the torch drive itself. Naturally, the torch drive does not utilize the traditional Bell Nozzle of classical rocketry, but rather the Plug Nozzle. This nozzle design also allows the use of two different kinds of thrust vectoring: Iris Nozzle type for high combat performance and electromagnetic Cascade Vanes for low-thrust maneuverability.

Anyway, discuss below and please, try to be civil in your responses. And speaking of responses, I would respond more easily if you display your screen name in your comments.

EDIT 8-5-2016: I've changed a few of the hyperlinks dealing with the types of capital-type combat spacecraft from Wikipedia and TVtropes links to those of the Future War Stories blog. Said website gives a better explanation of said subjects that make for far more interesting and dynamic deep space constellation composition both Main Line and Independent Patrol.

Get your Portable ID!


  1. Ok, finally caught up. I don't really have much to add to your set of assumptions. Nothing seems far out of place. The real kicker will be the kinds of stories you try to tell in the setting. Are the characters interesting? Do the political conflicts make sense?

    It seems like for most scifi, especially the visual stuff, they start with the characters and ignore the background. That mistake doesn't truly become visible until later in the show when things that should have been hashed out in the world-building come back to bite them in the butt.

    1. To be honest, I had characters for the setting back when I was mentally engineering the idea when I was a kid. However the character archetypes were a bit bias at the time, so over the years I figured that I should work out the setting first and then fit the characters in it. As a military-esque (my experiences on such matters were limited to the local Air Force JROTC program in addition to documentary conjectures) space opera with the backdrop of a galactic alien invasion, the kinds of stories are rather limited though I would like to think that their approach to problems would be similar to classic hard SF: they must figure out a way around a problem using the tools that are available and the restrictions that implies. That could range from the performance of an assault laser gun to potentially a race to relieve allies from a hostile attack.

      As for the political conflicts, well the ol' troupes of one nation-state believing that they have a solution to the problem that is counter to the alliance as a whole will probably be present though as per the galactic history of humanity up to this point, there are some old grudges due to imperialistic expansion of the previously mentioned empires and a nation-state formed to counter such expansion or at least be the final "line in the sand" kind of deal at the time of its inception.

      Then again, my next blog entry should be about, at least, the human superpowers that helped form the Galactic Alliance. Hopefully it should shed some more light on the astro-political environment of the known galaxy before the Crongus Wars.

      And what did you mean by "Finally caught up"? If you meant all those tvtroupes links, I kinda did put a warning about them.

  2. Characters and background world: it can be a nasty question, what tasks must be performed by humans, and what can be automatized?
    For example, in the case of leading an attack craft, a humans physical presence can be rather a hindrance...
    Generally, remote controlled units seems to be preferable.

    1. Not exactly fully relevant to the blog topic at hand, but I'll take a stab at it none the less. Might be interesting in the end.

      Without invoking Burnside's Zeroth Law of Space Combat due to the fact that one of the blog tags include the words "Space Opera", I'll try to put in some in-universe rationale why a vast majority of the galaxy and by extension humanity have manned combat spacecraft.

      One rational is the formation spacing of each "Task Unit" within a constellation for lack of a more appropriate jargon and the light-speed lag it would have on real-time coordination and decision making. A savy enough author, and I strongly don't mean myself mind you, would have made a correlation between the distance one ship is to another and the effective range of its weaponry. Or to put it this way: tens kilometer effective weapon ranges don't equate to spacecraft in constellation being close enough to see with the naked eye. In fact, it would make far more sense militarily to spread the spacecraft across a vast amount of space (no pun intended) to match the respective defense envelope of anti-warcraft and point defenses own effective ranges. Such distances would play into the light-speed lag just as well with enemy detection where split-second decisions cannot wait for a reply. A sapient crew would have to be on site as a consequence to ensure that the greater strategic objective is achieved that has been discussed with the flag officers and constellation general beforehand. And I can only assume that Force Walls play lovely havoc to sophisticated and complicated transmissions such as video or voice.

      Come to think of it, it's starting to sound a whole lot like Age-of-Sail thinking ala Horatio Nelson. Just without the whole "Broadside" and such....

      I can go on and on about a few hurdles that completely makes fully autonomous warcrafts impossible and that there will always be a sapient presence onboard, and to be quite honest I had a lengthy argument in my head, but there is one that I'm pretty sure few have ever considered: Legality.

    2. Part two because it's apparently TOO long....

      To be exact, such computer systems that would have to make such decisions as well as repetition and rapid fire calculations in one box would be borderline sapient and emerging sapience from collective experience is bound to come up eventually if given enough time. The legal question would be if it is acceptable to enslave such an individual for the sake of war?

      For the Federal Earth Union of Colonial Settlements and Nations (FEUCSN), they're practically legally obligated to declare such synthetic lifeforms that have achieved sapience a "Person" for lack of a better word, even grant citizenship since it was technically "born" under the FEUCSN flag. Yet, the now sapient warship has no other skills to offer in the civilian market. Sure it could be converted into a civilian transport craft, but the loans involved in such a renovation of its entire structure could potentially place it into an economic slavery to pay off such loans. In short, FEUCSN Welfare can't handle a sapient warcraft.

      For both the United Peoples’ Democratic Socialist Confederation of Marx-Shaw (UPDSCMS) and Imperial Islamic Union of Extrasolar Emirates (I2UE2), it comes down to the natural paranoia of having a sapient robot, to put it simply, having access to that amount of devastating firepower at its command and not having a reason to wage war against those nations or worse, defect. In short, they can't afford the luxury of a Robot Uprising possibility.

      For the Frenchmen of Averon and by extension the Averon Alliance of Federated Settlement Nations (A2FSN), well....they're almost culturally indoctrinated to seek such "adventure" the same way their pioneering ancestors had to during the First Settlement era. They don't run from danger, they jump into it with a smile on their face to prove that they are indeed worthy of being called Frenchmen of Averon. The well-to-do upper classes of Averon society may try to fight honorably but that is not the majority. In short, they believe that using an all automated AI-driven spacecraft to be beneath them.

      But to put it all briefly on the amount of automation: Though routine procedure and target solution is the domain of the computer, the decision to act still rests with the "Human" element of the crew.

      Besides, not all warcrafts can be fitted with a Playstation Millenium computer core. They are rare after all.

  3. To be exact, such computer systems that would have to make such decisions as well as repetition and rapid fire calculations in one box would be borderline sapient and emerging sapience from collective experience is bound to come up eventually if given enough time. "

    Well, we connected millions of compus, and they didnt became spaient, as e-brains dont evolve like living beings.
    While i still like old SFs like The Moon is a harsh mistress, that took this assumption, as a programmer i think its outdated a bit.
    But of course future computers can have a different kind of mechanism, that can evolve, like quantum processor or whatever.

    Just for the sake of fullfillment.

    Back to technical parts : what is the difference between your point range plasma weapon, and a neutralized particle beam?
    SF plasma weapons usually take the assumption that they stay together like ball lightning for a long time, otherwise they are simply neutral particle beams.

    1. Well Quantum-based computing does allow for the type of sapience emergence that many have feared would happen with conventional binary computing. And considering that the amount of computing power needed to keep spacecraft and starcraft operations routine would probably equal mass of not only the CPU but also the support structure, I can only assume that future Quantum Computers would be noticeably lighter than contemporary computer systems.

      Though now that I think about it, even if the warcraft doesn't become sapient it would have a different "experience" compared to a warcraft of the same model and class. Not exactly the Mentor in a story but it does have some interesting elements now that the possibility comes up.

      Still, any civilization/sapient species able to master particle physics enough to weaponize them as seen in the standard Space Opera should be able to have a Quantum Computer onboard spacecraft and starcraft, though considering the setting of this universe, much of the standard quantum computing technology utilized can't be easily micronized as in the Golden Age.

      And speaking of particle physics, the real differences between ranged plasma castors and neutralized particle beam cannon is in the generation and projection of said energy bolts. For particle cannons, the actual particle accelerator is stored deep within the warcraft in question and routed to the remote turret emitters for lack of a better term and are electrically neutral to reduce the electromagnetic bloom and maximize the effective range of said bolt. They are, in effect, self-sustaining.

      Point Defense Plasma Weapons are different in that the electromagnetic field extends beyond the physical barrel to keep the effects of Blooming from the plasma bolt until it impacts the target. Said electromagnetic field can only extend as far as a kilometer and the distance of said electromagnetic field between the castor and the target must be adjusted. Otherwise said target impacting the field at such high speeds, and with Force Walls to boot, would damage the mechanism. Additionally, the plasma generation equipment isn't stored deep within the spacecraft itself and routed to the turret but rather within or at least in extremely close proximity to it. The only thing critical to the Plasma Point Defense turret's operation, when it comes to generating said bolt, that could be stored deep within the vehicle is electricity. There have been attempts to store the hydrogen fuel and pump it into the turret, but due to safety issues they're just fed via hydrogen capsules not unlike a chaingun.

  4. And why this plasma is better than a particle beam?

    1. Oh well it's quite simple really. Other than greater kinetic impact compared to a neutralized particle beam of equal output and have a slightly greater Force Wall "cascade" that damages said systems, they aren't.

      They have an effective operational range that is effectively face-to-face in warcraft combat, are not naturally self-sustaining without an electromagnetic barrel extending from the physical castor, require actual "munitions" instead of just electrical input, don't cause as high an electromagnetic "burst" upon impact like particle beams, and are influenced by gravitational fields greater than particle beams (of course, I could be wrong on this one. No idea how much influence gravity has on said bolt when within the extended electromagnetic field.) resulting in shallow ballistic paths.

      The only reason why there are no neutralized particle beam point defense turrets upon warcrafts is two fold: The Particle Accelerator core layout has a minimal bore diameter that doesn't suit the kind of characteristics that would be required for a point defense turret unlike the Laser core layout. Additionally a localized neutralized particle accelerator turret, or even a charged particle accelerator turret, would be too bulky and massive for its role as point defense and would be a massive maintenance nightmare to survive them all. The plasma castor point defense turret, on the other hand, is much more compact in comparison.

  5. I like the things written. :)

    If it is an operatic setting, are there FTL stuff?

    1. Well I figured that I should balance the cons to the pros of the technology in the setting, equivalent exchange and all that. Figured that it'll actually make it seem realistic with minimal techno-babble involved.

      As for the near-stable FTL of space opera of this setting, allow me to direct this particular web article of Human Superluminal Technology. Feel free to comment further there.