As a break from waxing overly political on NYE I instead want to delve into some fun tech! I’m still looking at the various political machinations and how opinions are polarizing around the shooting in Texas. I will have more thoughts on that one but…
Tech break everyone!
Kinetic Energy Weapons are something that has been mostly relegated to science fiction. At least in how they’re usually portrayed. In reality we use low power kinetic energy weapons (firearms) and chemical energy weapons (explosives) and have for centuries.
Our low power kinetic energy weapons, say your EDC sidearm, aren’t using raw kinetic energy as their principle wounding method per se. Instead it’s a combination effect of the kinetic hydrostatic transfer (terms like hydrostatic shock and temporary wound cavity address this damage) and the permanent wound cavity through critical body systems causing organ failure due to tissue damage and exsanguination (not enough blood left in the body and/or one or more of the really important organs turned off)
Our chemical weapons (explosives), and by extension our nuclear weapons, are expensive special material enhancements to up the amount of destructive power a device can deliver from its inert kinetic raw form.
What strategic level kinetic energy weapons do, or would do, is take the energy levels currently only achievable through chemical or nuclear reactions and use extreme speed to do the same thing. We are using the kinetic energy equation to maximum effect, because the big money energy contributor is speed.
This is also the tech behind railguns, non-complex material traveling at high speed. Gravity, however, is the easiest and most plentiful accelerator we have access too. It isn’t going anywhere and doesn’t fail. Which makes the whole concept of orbital strategic kinetic weapons this incredibly interesting cross between high tech and low tech.
High tech because… well… space! Low tech because we’re doing the orbital equivalent of dropping a lawn dart. High tech again because we’ve given it GPS and other guidance tech like we’ve adapted to precision munitions. We also design the ‘dart’ from a dense high mass material and shape it to efficiently retain velocity, resist drag, and survive hypervelocity atmospheric entry and transit.
It’s mostly just that the same physics that go into dropping a foam finned football onto your siblings head from the second story deck can be macroed onto a planetary orbital scale and become a superweapon.