Title Posted
How the Safehold series won't end (Thu Apr 18, 2013) Dec 2013
Safehold Map Jul 2009
Hyper generator modes of operation Jun 2009
Counter-missile fire control issues Jun 2009
Capital missiles, multi-stage missiles, and missile pods Jun 2009
Prolong effects Jun 2009
Hyper Limits by stellar spectral class Jun 2009
Effective speed by hyper band Jun 2009
Acceleration by ship mass Jun 2009
Do you plan ahead for which characters die? Jun 2009


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Pearls of Weber

A collection of posts by David Weber containing background information for his stories, collected and generously made available Joe Buckley.

Missile power systems

  • Series: Honorverse
  • Date: October 22, 2002

Okay, people. I tried to post a good size message on this topic a couple of days ago and Ye Olde Bar interface dumped it all out on the floor rather than putting it up. So here we go again.

(1) Missiles prior to Ghost Rider all used super conductor capacitors to power their drives. At that time, the charge was put on the capacitors in the magazine spaces before they were sent up to the launchers, and all the tube really did was update the control links and spit the suckers out.

(2) First-gen Manty MDMs and all Havenite and Andy MDMs also used/use capacitors to power their drives. But this means the missiles have got to be really big suckers, because the combination of capacitor and drive system mass/volume pretty much maxed out in the pre-MDM missile bodies.

(3) When Ghost Rider was fully developed by the Manties, they incorporated the mature version of the technology referenced in The Honor of the Queen, when Honor and McKeon are talking to the Graysons about superdense fusion bottles and such like. Essentially, the Manties have managed to build in a teeny-tiny fusion plant. This thing could not be used aboard a manned vessel for several reasons (including some pretty serious shielding concerns) but works just fine in something you're going to throw away anyway. By using the new very small fusion plants, Manty designers are able to engineer a lot more capability into a given size of missile body than anyone else can. First, because the fusion plants use less volume than capacitors. Second, because the fusion plants give enormously greater endurance than capacitors. Third, because the fusion plants give higher sustained peak power availability. For example, a Havenite MDM has what amounts to an entirely separate capacitor bank for each drive system ("stage") it mounts, and its ECM emitters and jammers are totally dependent on those same capacitors (or else yet another dedicated capacitor bank). Manty MDMs use a single fusion plant to fire up all of the missile's drive sessions and use the raw power available from the plant to provide the juice for all those neat and nasty EW systems they build into their birds these days.

(4) Yet another version of the new fusion technology is used in their long-range remote platforms (like their FTL-capable recon drones). These plants use the same basic technology but accept a much greater volume in order to build in still more sustainability. The drives in the platforms are also significantly different from those in missiles. They are far lower powered, with much smaller peak acceleration levels, but they can sustain acceleration as long as their power holds out, and their acceleration levels can be varied or even completely stopped and restarted. Unfortunately, a Ghost Rider remote platform is much larger than an MDM and must be deployed through the mother ship's boatbay, not through a missile tube. Which is one reason no one is building big, slow, stealthy missiles using the same technology. They'd be too big, and mag capacity (already a much greater problem for the MDM missile combatants) would quickly get completely out of hand.

(5) The tiny fusion plants in question require an external power source to initiate the reaction, and that power is now provided from the missile launchers rather than in the form of capacitor charges while the missiles are still in the magazines. This imposes a slower rate of fire than would be possible with capacitor-powered missiles… and also means that for at least a few moments before launching a full broadside of missiles, a Saganami-C-class CA has twenty-odd individual fusion plants roaring away inside its launch tubes. Which is why the Manties started out with capacitor-fired MDMs and only went to the engineered-down, tube-capable MDMs once they were sure they'd gotten the bugs out of the new fusion tech.

There! Let's see if it gets through this time.