Tag Archives: star wars

How difficult would it be to fight a battle in space? An aerospace engineer explains

Aerospace engineering PhD candidate Joseph Shoer considers the physics of fighting in space, from the maneuverability of the aircraft to the kinds of weapons that would be used:

There are only a few ways to maneuver the attitude of a spacecraft around – to point it in a new direction. The fast ways to do that are to fire an off-center thruster or to tilt a gyroscope around to generate a torque. Attitude maneuvers would be critical to point the main engine of a space fighter to set up for a burn, or to point the weapons systems at an enemy. Either way, concealing the attitude maneuvers of the space fighter would be important to gain a tactical advantage. So I think gyroscopes (“CMGs,” in the spacecraft lingo) would be a better way to go – they could invisibly live entirely within the space fighter hull, and wouldn’t need to be mounted on any long booms (which would increase the radar, visible, and physical cross-section of the fighter) to get the most torque on the craft. With some big CMGs, a spacecraft could flip end-for-end in a matter of seconds or less. If you come upon a starfighter with some big, spherical bulbs near the midsection, they are probably whopping big CMGs and the thing will be able to point its guns at you wherever you go. To mitigate some of the directionality of things like weapons fire and thruster burns, space fighters would probably have weapons and engines mounted at various points around their hull; but a culture interested in efficiently mass-producing space warships would probably be concerned about manufacturing so many precision parts for a relatively fragile vessel, and the craft would likely only have one main engine rather than, say, four equal tetrahedral engines.