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Battle Over Phobos by William-Black Battle Over Phobos by William-Black
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Seen against the surface of the Martian moon Phobos, a spacecraft is skewered by a "Casaba-Howitzer”charge while at the periphery of the scene commercial spacecraft, the spherical Orion nuclear pulse vehicles, can be seen maneuvering to clear the area of combat.
A visualization created for my future historical setting, a blend of 3D modeling and digital painting, updated and re-worked over time. I’ve played with the composition in an intentional way to induce a kind of visual vertigo intended to convey a sense of free-fall.

For more information on my future history see my journal entry Orion’s Arm Future History, A Synopsis. A Timeline Graph is to be found here: Timeline

The Casaba-Howitzer is a nuclear shaped-charge munition designed to direct about 85% of the weapons energy into a narrow star-hot jet of plasma. The concept is derived from the shaped-charge nuclear pulse unit design for Orion nuclear pulse propulsion. Casaba-Howitzer charges would be from sub-kiloton to several kilotons in yield, launched on pancake booster rockets and detonated at sufficient distance from the battleship to prevent damage (several hundred yards at least), whereupon they would explode and skewer the hapless target with a spear of nuclear flame.

Space Combat

Note: Under normal circumstances combat would occur at such distances that opposing spacecraft would be visible only as very tiny dots with a telescope – here the crews manning the spacecraft presume that they are on the same side, in safe harbor, following station-keeping orbits over the main port or mooring located on the Martian moon Phobos.

Space combat would largely employ missile borne kinetic kill systems (i.e. showers of slugs and umbrella like steel nets), bomb-pumped X-ray lasers, and multi-warhead devices which apply the combined effect of nuclear driven self-forging penetrators and a hot-plasma jet.

From Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets site, the report Fourth Generation Nuclear Weapons: Military effectiveness and collateral effects notes that harnessing the x-rays from a nuclear blast is not only good for making deadly jets of atomic fire, but can also be used to pump x-ray lasers. Not to mention accelerating projectiles to very high velocities by means of x-ray ablation, or by means of neutrons from the nuclear explosion (see report for cites on this).

The report points out that the x-rays and neutrons can be used to drive or self-forge several projectiles or fragments (a "nuclear gun" or "nuclear grenade"). X-rays and neutrons can also be used to heat a working fluid and form hot jets (the above-described "nuclear shaped charge").

Thirdly, the forwards and backwards flux of x-rays and neutrons from a single nuclear device can be used to drive a multi-warhead weapon, e.g., a single weapon that fires a self-forging penetrator followed a few microseconds later by a jet of hot plasma. Talk about a one-two punch! The penetrator cracks the armor, allowing the hot jet to enter the target's interior and vaporize the soft chewy center.

About the warship in this image:

The forward module is the heavily armored crewed portion of the vehicle, CIC (Combat Information Center) and control deck, along with crew berthing and workspaces are embedded deep in the center of the craft surrounded by water tanks. Phalanx style CIWS and missile launchers are mounted on the outer hull.

A long structural spine connects the crew module with the propulsion module – the length of this span provides a radiation-buffering separation between the crewed portion of the vehicle and the Orion nuclear pulse propulsion system. The spine contains oxygen and hydrogen tanks used in the life system and for chemically fueled maneuvering reaction-jets. The spine is octagonal in cross-section, on four of its sides flat-panel, one-sided, radiators are mounted – while the nuclear pulse propulsion system requires no radiator panels, the electrical systems and power generation systems do. The remaining four sides hold mountings for nuclear pulse unit magazine’s – these are absent on the warships in this image as the spacecraft are “parked” in station-keeping orbits at Phobos for servicing. (The long sections of nuclear pulse magazine stages are absent on the spherical commercial spacecraft (along with their cargo modules) for this same reason.) Chemical rockets are mounted along the sides of the propulsion module in this design. The propulsion module contains space for about 900 nuclear pulse units, so the spacecraft can still maneuver in this configuration. Note: spacecraft approaching space stations or docking births on a small asteroid base (or moon, as depicted here) would depend entirely on chemical thrusters.  

My designs are grounded in a Hard SF philosophy – so spacecraft (most especially combat spacecraft) do not have windows; for a good explanation of why this is so see Winchell Chung's Common Misconceptions page for this entry Rockets Don't Got Windows.

In the scheme of my future history Battle over Phobos is akin to the opening shots of the American Revolutionary War, some ships being manned by an occupation force from Earth, others being manned by Martian natives, men fully inducted and presumably loyal to the Alliance Earth government. This is the rational for the combatants being in close proximity, in Mars orbit – the war to take back Mars begins in this setting where Martian patriots open fire unexpectedly on Alliance Occupation Fleet spacecraft.

Back-story Notes: The art of Insurgency and the origins of Alliance strategy and tactics

Alliance Earth, a dystopian global fascist/collectivist State, has seized and occupied the Martian settlement established by independent settlers over 500 years in the historical past of the story setting – a theft of 500 years labor the Martian settlers put in establishing a terrestrial biosphere on Mars. The occupation lasts five years.

Faced with pervasive surveillance under a military police state (in which abduction, torture, and summary execution-on-suspicion is the norm) the Martians establish a blind two prong insurgency.

A two-prong insurgency describes two independent insurgent operations.

A blind two prong insurgency describes two independent insurgent operations with no connection or communication between them.

One prong quietly infiltrates the occupation, insinuating itself into Alliance military forces and command structure, while the second prong deliberately draws, holds, and dominates the attention of the Alliance police state.

Martian insurgency rested on the confidence that the tactics which had served the Alliance well on Earth would be blindly followed by its commanders on Mars.

Arising amid the prevailing anarchy of post-Pandemonium Earth, the Alliance swept the globe in a mere 75 years. Earth, at the time, was a world of tribal territories under often shifting and uncertain criminal gang rule (versus the organized states of the Industrial Era) the near complete banishment of high-technology (including broadcast communications) resulting from the hysteria of anti-corporate purges during the initial outbreak of the Pandemonium) played no small role in establishing the conditions for this relatively swift rise to dominance.

Agrarian based feudal systems and tribal gangs (the state to which society had devolved) presented little opposition to the Alliance, an organized State with no technological prohibition, and a growing industrial base, and superior military tactics.

The Alliance strategy of inducting the soldiers of a conquered army into their own military forces became an effective way to minimize resistance. The tactic offered a simple choice: join and be rewarded with privilege, rank, and pay, or be put to death. On Earth this worked well because the sustenance-level existence most populations were accustomed to could not compete with the industrial might of the growing Alliance State. Loyalty was reinforced by a brutal, but simple, carrot-and-stick approach. Reward versus threat, the reward being status, pay, and privilege lavished on their inductees, weighted against a brutally demonstrated threat: that any traitor would sacrifice, right down to the smallest wailing infant, his family, his friends, along with the family and friends of every single man he had ever associated with, subjecting all to the most vile and degrading deaths possible – but the Martians were not the peoples of Earth, and this single miscalculation, more than any other factor, led to the failure of the Occupation and set the stage for the eventual demise of the Alliance itself. 

In order to monopolize attentions of the Alliance police state, the visible insurgency engaged in a reckless series of strikes targeting the most hardened assets: command centers and residential compounds of the Alliance bureaucracy, along with the Security infrastructure of the State itself. They engaged the enemy knowing they would die individually and by the hundreds, that there could be no assistance and no safe haven, sustained only by the conviction that the fight was necessary, the cause worthy and just, the visible prong of resistance continued this action over years while the invisible prong, solid Martians all, quietly secured positions of necessary authority, consolidating sufficient force to overwhelm their targets in one bold stroke.

Hat-tip to Winchell Chung for his superb and indispensable Atomic Rockets website.
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Prometheus273 Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
It's a gorgeous image, but you know Phobos is a 7 mile wide rock, right?
Prometheus273 Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Oh wait.  Duh.  The brown one is Phobos.  Sorry.
Love what you've done with Mars though.
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Submitted on
August 5, 2013
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