The Physics of Space Battles

Basically, why all science fiction movies are scientifically inaccurate. Not that we care!

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

4 replies on “The Physics of Space Battles”

That was really good, and they pointed out some stuff that usually gets missed. My only quibble with their explanation on Star Wars close combat is that the close combat is a good tactic in reaction to how maneuverable starships are in Star Wars. You can’t have a light-minute distance battle if ships can easily move out of the way or maneuver to avoid getting hit (and fuel mass limitations don’t seem to be a problem with Star Wars ships). And their shields means that battles might come down to fleets simply pounding on each other over and over again until somebody gets wiped out or retreats.

He made some good points about lasers as well. Lasers are easily the best “space weapon” in a set-up that acknowledges physics: they don’t require ammunition (just the medium, an energy source, and a way to get rid of waste heat), they can be fired as many times as your ship can before it overheats, and they can’t be detected in advance (you could only try to maneuver to avoid being hit).

I wouldn’t rule out space warfare, since you never know what political conditions will be like down the line. But it would probably be over control of people and political differences versus resources, since resources and energy are plentiful in space.

It’s been a while since I read the books, but I seem to remember Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy had space combat based on time-delayed attack drones and smart missiles that fired themselves at where the target was going to be, rather than where it started from… or something.

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