Space weapons redux

OK, I’ve run four searches now and I still can’t find what I’m looking for. I could have sworn that before the Great Crash there was a thread aobut the best hand to hand or anti-personel weapons for use in zero gravity situations. Unfortunately, I can remember nothing about it other than its existence. So I’ll reopen the floor for discussion.

First of all, what’s the current conventional wisdom about handheld laser weapons? Right around the corner? Not going to happen? What about in 150 years?

Second, what would the ideal weapons for space piracy be? I’ve got my group of men and a big, threatening-looking spaceship. I want to board a ship, kill or incapaciate the crew, and take their stuff. What do I arm my men with?

Third, what sort of weapon would one want to have if one were in a pressure suit fighting in space?

Yes, I’m still working on a science fiction story.

  1. Handheld Laser Weapons – don’t count on 'em. Too much heat loss to dissipate. Easier just to use the damned thing as a club.

  2. Ideal weapon for space piracy? How about projectile weapons? Programmable “smart rocks”? Are you going for siege (in space, it’s often hard to run) or blitz?

  3. Pressure suit weapons? How about something that can threaten to cut the other guy’s suit?

If you want to read about near-future space piracy, get The Descent of Anansi by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes.

I’d assume if you were meleeing in pressure suits, you’d want a thrusting/piercing weapon sharp enough (and strong enough) to punch through the suit’s skin. The length of the weapon would depend on exactly how much maneuvering space there is. A rapier would have an advantage over a poignard in a large area, the reverse for cramped conditions.

Swinging weapons would be next to useless, IMO. Melee weapons would be fairly common, since flinging lead around would probably be a pretty bad idea with all that sensitive exposed circuitry and whatnot.

Fencing foils & gyrojet pistols.

Suit piercing & limiting reaction effects.

What’s a “handheld laser weapon” ? It’s already the case that using laser pointers to distract bus drivers and the like have (anecdotaly) led to prosecutions in the UK. That’s plausibly dangerous, so are those a “weapon” ?

Based on what you have in mind, perhaps you could use them to confuse the defending crew into attacking one another or stepping/floating into an airlock and jettisoning themselves.

Speaking of airlocks, you could confuse the pilot to dock his ship with yours.

So, something like a telescoping spear perhaps?

I love it. Flying around in ultra-high tech space ships and still humans resort to poking each other with pointed sticks. If you want it done right, use 70,000 year old technology.

Tasers and cattle-prods:
Put a couple of needles on the end of your spear, charge it up with high-voltage, high-frequency electricity, and all you have to do is give your victim a good hard poke… It needn’t even be fatal. Wire-tethered darts work well, to, but may have too much impulse if they’re required to penetrate heavy suits. stungus would work well in hand-to- hand combat. These are all extant in one form or another.

Tetanizing beam weapons:
Use lasers to ionize a couple of paths through the air, then send your high-voltage, high-frequency charge down the ionized paths. This would be a no-impulse, very portable system (maybe pistol w/backpack), and is currently under development.

Glue guns / sticky foam & netguns:
Already deployed in crude forms, these are relatively high impulse in their current incarnations, but sticky foam grenades, or a net grenades may be possible.

There are plenty of other ideas, but that’s just off the top of my head.

Never post when sick… Even after preview, your post will be full of typos… :stuck_out_tongue:

See if you can find a copy of War in 2080 by David Langford. (If it’s out of print you can order it directly from the author here.) Its a fantastic book describing exactly what weapons will work in zero g, why they’ll work, and the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Highly recommend the book. He covers everything from swords to high powered lasers to theoretical weapons.

But I thought the OP asked about space weapons? :confused:

…I want to board a ship, kill or incapaciate the crew, and take their stuff…

For these purposes, you can assume that they’re fighting in an atmosphere. Obviously, tetanizing beam weapons won’t work in a vacuum, but wire-tethered tazers should work to some degree…

Except that poking someone with a spear in zero gee becomes a test of who’s tethered down better. If it’s your opponent, you go for a little ride, that ends when you bump into something.

I thinking some kind of nano-robots fired from a machine-rocket pistol (hey – why not?).

Some of them have little acid reserviors, some little drills, some explosive, all with some kind of IFF so they don’t go after friendlies.

Maybe a little bigger ones (say crab-sized) with onboard propulsion, and some biomed sensors, and multistrike capability. They can go after additional targets if they get their first.

Don’t. You’ll have a much easier time killing everyone abord the target ship before you even try and board it. Pepper it with projectiles to let all the air out, , then hose flechettes into any crew-carrying areas. The crew on the target vessle can’t stay in their space suits forever, and onve their shipwide life support is wrecked you just have to wait a day or two and they’ll all be dead one way or the other. Depending on your allowed technology, you can also bathe it with radiation to kill anything living before you get near.

It’s not likely that you’d be able to dock with a ship with a live crew trying to oppose the boarding anyway. Ever watch NASA video of the shuttle and the space station docking? It takes hours, and that’s with people on both ships cooperating.

The ultimate space hand weapon would be some sort of tethered projectile which attaches to the victim then fires a blast of explosive into him. That way, the forces cancel out. It would be kind of like a ‘bang stick’ for sharks, except that it would grapple onto the person with a claw or something before detonating.

Even just a projectile weapon would rocket the shooter in the opposite direction, causing him to expel reaction mass and give away his position to heat or gas sensors.

As for fencing foils, I think you need to remember that suits will be refined to protect against threats. Something as small as a fencing foil could lead to the development of self-sealing suits.

This is the reason that I like glue-foam and nets. I don’t care how well armed and armored you are, you aren’t going to do much once entangled.

If you don’t care about collateral damage or fatalities, frag grenades still work just fine, and if you just want to hull the target, your basic RPG will do nicely. In fact, if you can calculate trajectories well enough, an RPG would be effective at significant ranges (ship-to-ship), while doing fairly limited damage to the target vessel. They have the advantages of being low-recoil, and not needing massive amounts of power to deliver an incapacitating blow to the target. In fact, you could mount recoiless rocket weapons on spacecraft right now, if you found a need to do so.

In fact, it’s already been done. During the really bad days of the Cold War, the Russians were worried about the possibility of an armed Apollo capsule being sent to board the planned Almaz military reconnisance space station. Weapons systems were developed for station self-defense, including rockets and a recoilless rifle system built to work in space. One of the early Soviet space stations was actually armed with the gun, and test firings against dummy targets were conducted. The idea was dropped after the Soviets determined that photo-reconnisance sattalites could operate just as well unmanned, and the miliraty space station program was dropped.

An Armed interceptor Soyuz capsule was also desgined, to be able to rendevous with and destroy enemy sattalites, but was never developed to the point of launchable hardware.

Would there be any way to cancel out the force of a projectile weapons so that you wouldn’t go spinning in the opposite direction?

As for swords, spears and knives, I’d imagine that if we were in a situation where you could get attacked going EVA you’d have plated space-suits. After all, weight’s not a problem :).

Thanks for many interesting replies.

Tuckerfan, I’ll check that book out. Looks very interesting.

Catch me up on recoiless rifles. They vent the extra gases out he back to cancel out the recoil, right? Does that mean that it’s hazardous to stand directly behind someone who is firing one? What kind of safe distance are we talking about.

And what about the short range problem of gyro-jet weapons? I recall that the ones made in the 60’s needed a little run up space to get to full speed, and that it was actually possible to stop a projectile by putting one’s finger over the end of the barrel. And that they were not terribly accurate, either.

AndrewL, it seems that attacking a ship in the manner you describe would render it hopelessly uninhabitable for the victors as well as the vanquished. Pirates like to capture intact ships, after all.

And plated space suits bring up a whole 'nother issue. For one thing, suits are bulky enough as it is. For another, even though you’re weightless, your heavy suit armor is stil going to have inertia, so it would still be hard to move around in.

It would seem that the biggest advantage one would have in zero g combat would be the ability to move fast and then quicky anchor oneself firmly. So electromagnetic boots would be very helpful.