The majority of shipmounted weapons are beam-based. That is, they fire particles in phase (organized and unidirectional) at or close to the speed of light. The two well-known forms of beam-based weaponry rely on the photon and electron, respectively.
The photon laser is simply called the laser. Through the traditional atomic orbital manipulation, photons mediating intense amounts of kinetic energy are produced and directed through an ocular lens and toward the target. There are two forms of photon lasers: pulse and duration. Pulse lasers recharge faster but convey less amount of energy per burst. Duration lasers take more time to charge up energy but release more potent shots. Overall, there is no difference in damage dealt between pulse and duration varieties of the same weapon.
The electron beam weapon is called the free electron laser. Instead of using electricity to coax an atom to release photons like the photon laser, the free electron laser fires the individual electrons that make up electricity. These electrons move just marginally below relativistic speeds because they are accelerated before shooting. Similar to the photon laser, the free electron laser also comes in pulse and duration types. FELs are approximately two times more powerful than photon lasers.
Space beam weapons, unlike sidearms and rifles used by ground forces, have a peculiar nomenclature. There is little correlation in the naming conventions between the two. The following table specifies the manufacturer name of the types of beam guns.
- Laser Pulse: Laser Repeater
- Laser Duration: Laser Cannon
- Electron Pulse: Pulse Repeater
- Electron Duration: Pulse Cannon
Other Weapons Edit
The "particle cannon," as it is referred to, is similar to a free electron laser but differs in the ammunition that it uses. Instead of electrons, a particle cannon fires atomic ions--usually hydronium or tritium. Using an acceleration scheme similar to that in a free electron laser, the particle cannon fires these ions in phase. Because ions are significantly more massive than electrons, the particle cannon ammunition is fired at only a fraction of the speed of light.
The particle cannon destroys things in a manner analogous to beam-based munitions. As the particle hits the target, it deposits its kinetic energy to the molecules that make up the target. This excess energy excites the molecules, forcing damaging breakdown. Its effect can be imagined by a cue ball hitting a racked group of billiard balls. The result is that the target is heated rapidly over a period of milliseconds, causing an explosion.
The plasma cannon is not dissimilar to the mechanism of plasma guns as toted by ground troops. It transforms hydrogen gas into plasma through high voltage bursts of electricity. After supercompression by rotating electromagnets, the plasma mass is shot toward the target at speeds close to 600m/s.
A plasma cannon, shot for shot, is significantly more powerful than beam-based weaponry.
Although photon lasers and free electron lasers are invisible when fired in the vacuum of space, a concession should be made to allow space combat that is easier to visualize. It can then be said that these lasers will emit a stream of monochromatic light, blue or red, when fired.
The same suspension of belief can also be adopted for the particle cannon. We can say that it appears green.
Plasma cannons are analogous to the turbolasers well-documented in the Star Wars series. Each bolt appears as a bright, glowing red mass more long than it is wide. These emissions are secondary. The actual thermal energy is released in the infrared.
Mass Drivers Edit
Essentially huge slugthrowers designed for space warfare. Mass drivers use chemical explosions or electromagnetic fields to fire slugs at speeds faster than those experienced by ground-based guns of similar design. Instead of dealing thermal damage, mass drivers brute force ship hulls apart. Some mass drivers may fire slugs that have explosive warheads.
Thanks to Gadget for this information.