So, I was thinking about this question which I asked a while back, and it occurred to me that the "natural predator" of such ships would be missile and fighter carriers which unleash swarms of missiles and/or fighters without having to expose as much surface area as Dreadnoughts.

With that in mind, what would be the best ship design to meet these criteria:

  • Lots and lots of missiles and/or fighters/drones.
  • As much surface area as possible (those "lots and lots of missiles and fighters" take up room, after all)
  • Minimum surface area facing the enemy (unlike Dreadnoughts, these aren't meant to be an LST (Large Slow Target)).
  • Internal capacity for magazines and hangars.


  • Please keep moving parts to a minimum. They may make the ship look cool, but they're a big "hit me" sign when it comes to Murphy's Law.

  • In-universe the only method of FTL travel is a Star Trek-esque warp drive. As such, it must have a nacelles (plural, in pairs), which follow the placement criteria listed here.

Non-issues (things that don't really affect the shape of the ship):

  • Ships are carved out of solid blocks via advanced nanotechnology; as a result, "you wouldn't be able to build this" isn't an issue.

  • Energy supply. It may need a Star Trek warp drive, but it doesn't need a Star Trek warp core - the ship's power supply is, for all intents and purposes, a ZPM.

  • Sublight engines are similar to Star Trek's "impulse drive" - in other words, it just needs a flat spot with an unobstructed view of the back of the ship. Furthermore, it doesn't have any of the radiation shielding concerns that come with fusion drives.

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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? What shape of a ship would be most effective in real life space combat? $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Aug 31, 2020 at 9:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Philipp A little bit, but it doesn't fully answer my question. $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2020 at 11:39
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    $\begingroup$ Which part does it not address? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Aug 31, 2020 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ @The Daleks You question is flawed because fighters have no function in space warfare as has been explained many times. $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2020 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding there are fighters, and there are "fighters". There is no WWII style dogfighting in space, but depending on what technologies you have at your disposal, the use of swarms of smaller ships could be much better than capital ships. It all depends on the setting. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Aug 31, 2020 at 22:01

12 Answers 12


I came up with a design that I'm pretty proud of for a scifi universe I was working on for a while. There are some material science handwavium aspects, but it is entirely based on real ship concepts to make it somewhat feasible with modifications.

enter image description here

This is a diagram of an older version of the design, but the idea is the ships would be heavily modular. So a variant with rings full of missile tubes instead crew quarters like shown would probably work best for your intentions. This design is meant more for combat at range, but I would imagine a ship refit for a blockade or ambush might have horizontally firing missiles as well. It does however have 18 missile tubes (grey triangles) in the nose.

Part of the idea behind the design is that combat would begin at such great distances you would have to use full thrust and already be facing each other to get within effective range. This is also why the ship makes use of magnetic rails to launch missiles at a much higher velocity, while simultaneously making use of the existing velocity of the ship in transit. You then get the added bonus of having your smallest profile, strongest armor, and sensors facing towards your target, with your primary propulsion (week point and identifying heat source) pointed away from them.

Some of the in-universe handwavium would be how the rings rotate around the spine of the ship with specific reasons for it, but honestly a fixed ring design with the whole ship rotating around its central axis would work just as well and doesn't make much of a difference.

Just a concept I came up with, feel free to ask questions or nit pick as you please.


Here is an image of the Phoenix, taken directly out of Star Trek itself, for comparison on what the ship might look like with the addition of nacelles:

enter image description here

The rings being fixed there is of course less need to actually have separate rings instead of a solid hull all the way around, but I feel the advantages of a modular design outweigh that of a single piece hull in this case. Without rotation, the rings (or decks as I would refer to them) wouldn't need space between them, which would also shorten the length of the ship and the lack of gaps would remove any weak points they create.

  • $\begingroup$ Of all the ideas given so far, this is the best. Here's a big green checkmark. $\endgroup$ Sep 2, 2020 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks So, there are settings where I would agree this could be a realistic design, but it has tons of moving parts and no workable nacelles violating both of your restrictions. It also seems to do no better than a mediocre job of meeting any of your other requirements; so... I'm curious, what about this stands out to you as as answering the question? $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Sep 5, 2020 at 7:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki I didn't see the bit about "rotating rings" when I first read it. I've taken a look at your redesign, and I'll accept it instead. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2020 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Daleks A little miffed that my answer was unaccepted, but more so because the new one is a direct modification of my own design. I would like to point out that I did say the rings should be FIXED, meaning not rotating independently from the ship, as the reasons and methods for the rotation were part of the lore of my universe. Along those lines though, my design is somewhat in line with Star Trek lore as the addition of the nacelles is all that is needed to match the first warp ship, the Phoenix (I will edit a picture in above). $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2020 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ @TitaniumTurtle Now that you've done a redesign to fit the reqs, I'll re-accept your answer. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2020 at 16:57

It is nothing but missiles.

The ship is in its entirety made of missiles. And also some of those warp nacelles you mention. On traveling, the missiles clump together around the nacelle and go, like army ants bedding down for the night in a hive made of their own bodies. On arriving, they immediately break apart and drift into a cloud of nearly a cubic kilometer.

The missiles are capable of using their rockets to maneuver. Additionally the missile's explosive payload is the same material that it uses as fuel / reaction mass, which conserves weight. A missile which has been maneuvering around for a while before choosing a target will not pack the same wallop as a fresh missile, but still a wallop.

This structure does not offer much in the way of targets. Separated missiles will need to be shot down one by one. If caught in their clump immediately before or after entering warp one might get rid of most of them with an explosion but they do not spend much time that way.

Targeting the nacelles would prevent the ship from leaving. The nacelles are not easy to target because they look exactly like all of the other missiles.

If you need crew for your story, they can reside in another structure. It also looks like a missile and moves with the rest, powered by the same sort of flocking AI but one which never chooses a target to destroy. Quarters are tight inside the missile but the crew are good friends.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You might not even need payload, you can use propellant to build up kinetic energy, which isn't lost in space, and just crash into the target. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Aug 31, 2020 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ "Please keep moving parts to a minimum" - this is all moving parts. $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2020 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks I mean technically, there is no ship so the ship doesn't have moving parts :D $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Aug 31, 2020 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ I'd imagine this sort of thing, like any lightly-armored drone swarm, gets hard-countered by a nuclear warhead. Funny principle, though, and a clever idea for a hyper-high-tech civilization or the like. $\endgroup$
    – parasoup
    Aug 31, 2020 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks your mention of moving parts in your question seems to be targeted at having less complicated structure and thus less weaknesses (Murphy’s law); this particular idea is just a cloud of missiles, with no particularly complicated machinery. There’s no death star level weakness to pinpoint either, since each unit is simply a rocket/missile. It’s probably the simplest solution to getting the most firepower per surface area. $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Aug 31, 2020 at 23:19

Long, cigar shape

For example: Battlestar class ships (from Battlestar Galactica):

enter image description here

Long cigar-like shape is optimal for this kind of combat:

  • Facing enemy gives minimal surface area.
  • Sides jam packed full of launch tubes for fighters and small missiles
  • Top jammed packed full of nuke launch tubes.
  • FTL drives at the back there, so they don't get hit
  • Fast recovery of fighters for refuel and rearm under fire by having them impacting a retractable deck. The photo shows the deck extended.

BSG also had front guns, a front airlock, and could ram enemy ships. You don't need / want this, so just put a lot of armour at the front (I'd suggest dozens of alternate steel / vacuum layers, basically sacrificial front compartments).

Other useful features:

  • Lots and lots of close in weapons systems on the sides backup. Battlestar galactica used to use a flak screen to stop missiles and enemy fighters getting through. You could use smaller missiles, keeping with your "only missiles" philosophy.
  • Bridge is deep in the ship, so no lucky strikes kill the command struture.
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. Provided that a better answer doesn't come along, I'll probably accept this. $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2020 at 11:54
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    $\begingroup$ This is an excellent observation. If enemy ships are going to be using missiles though, you don't' want to depend on physical armor... even with layered bulkheads, even one missile strike would be devastating, especially if there were multiple warheads or paired strikes. Countermeasures like rail guns or point defense lasers are typical for the genres. Intelligent flak cannons are good too, but they wouldn't work against large, smart missiles unless the debris field is heavy enough to interfere with sensor data or result in substantial collision damage. $\endgroup$
    – CeliaFate
    Aug 31, 2020 at 13:34


Assuming your ship points at its opponents, a cone presents the smallest cross-sectional area with the greatest angle of armor plating. In my opinion, it's the most efficient spaceship shape for any armored vessel. The smaller your cross-section, the harder you are to hit. The smaller the angle of an impact on your armor, the more energy is reflected instead of absorbed.

As for missiles, you can put them in launchers perpendicular to the armor, like a torpedo tube but pointed sideways instead of forward. This pulls double duty in reducing the cross-section of those torpedo hatches, and when your missile launches out the tube, it can perform a rotation maneuver so its engine exhaust doesn't hit the ship it launches from.

enter image description here

A great source for some legit space combat strategies is the game Children of a Dead Earth, definitely worth it if you like to play with real tech based space combat and orbital maneuvers.

Also, unless you're looking to recreate WWII dog fights in space, space fighters aren't very realistic. A drone takes up less space, can pull harder maneuvers, and can be launched like a missile.

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    $\begingroup$ Conical armor has some distinct advantages against direct fire weapons, but less so against missiles. If your opponent is also using side fired missiles, that means their missiles will mostly be coming about to strike you from the sides, not the front. If you want to go with angled armor mechanics, I would suggest a shape that either takes into consideration that missiles may not all be coming from the direction you expect, or include some detail that controls for how to make sure the missiles hit at the angle you need them to. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Aug 31, 2020 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki how much of your mass allocation are you burning in order to get these missiles to approach from the side? Due to the ranges and velocities, to get a decent angle (thanks to the tyranny of the rocket) you could probably pelt two missiles directly at them. $\endgroup$
    – pjp
    Aug 31, 2020 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki You might have a point. But if we're considering distances in the hundreds of kilometers, the enemy (and you) have plenty of time to turn the vessel to face an incoming wave of missiles. And, if we make the same assumption about point defense as the creator of CoaDE, then you need to have a fleet of missiles moving very quickly to overwhelm those point defense systems which drastically widens their turning radius. $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2020 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ @pjp Come to think of it, VLS vs FLS only matters at very close range, but there are other factors as well. If you are actually trying to evade missiles at all, then you don't do that by flying straight at them, you do it by making tighter more controlled maneuvers than they can hopefully adapt to, but when you fail to dodge, the missile's tracking almost inevitably causes it to turn into your side. So, IF your armor is good enough to want to face tank it, then having your missiles spend some fuel to broadside you on purpose will be worth it to get around the armor. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Aug 31, 2020 at 20:52

Classic "flying saucer"

The mathematically perfect solution for maximum surface area and minimum area facing the enemy would be a plane (the geometry one, not aviation). Of course we need some volume as well, so we'll need to thicken it up a bit. Maybe make it circular so it doesn't have any more vulnerable edges than necessary.

So what we have created... is the classic "flying saucer". I especially love how this adds a more-or-less scientific reasoning to this oldest and most widely spread space ship shape.


Missiles only require ejection ports and fighters only require launch bays, so the formula isn't necessarily dependent on how much surface area can we spare as the rate of fire or rate of launch that would free up a tube/bay, and how long does it take to prep the next.

If surface area is all you're looking for, flat ships will serve your purposes best, like an aircraft carrier except you wouldn't need a keel, but I'd propose a stackable modular launch pod configuration that could be customized for the mass and acceleration power of the host craft.

On larger ships they could be inside the bulkhead, assuming all missiles are huge, guided ship busters and you don't require a turret, though movable turrets would be a possible configuration option for both missiles and fighters.

So to fit all of your criteria, I would say an optimal shape would be a narrow spine with staggered launch bays/tubes permitting you to turn your bow toward an enemy and present the smallest possible target during combat. The only negative to NOT presenting a broadside salvo is that time to intercept might be a couple of seconds slower.

It also occurs to me that each bay could be roughly the same manufacture in terms of size, shape, and space requirements. Missiles would require ammunition storage and launch mechanics, ships would require docking space and fuel (obviously more would go into each, but those are the big space consumers). Space requirements would depend on the tech level.

MLRS Missile Launcher


My answer to this similar question still applies. The logic behind it may change a little due to the constraints of your question, but I highly recommend reading it as it discusses in detail other reasons as to why this shape is good as well. https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/152967/57832

A Spherical Hex Lattice

Lots and lots of missiles and/or fighters/drones.

Instead of trying to store your entire arsonal inside of a small well armored cavity where they will probably all get taken out by the first heavy missile hit you take, you spread your missles out over such a large area that they can all just hang out on the outside. If one gets hit, it will explode, but not cause a chain reaction leaving you with hundreds of remaining missiles left to fire.

As much surface area as possible (those "lots and lots of missiles and fighters" take up room, after all)

I think it goes without saying... this design has TONS of surface area... like stupid amounts.

Minimum surface area facing the enemy.

It's not about minimizing the surface area you expose, but it makes what surface there is far more difficult to hit. Weapons fire will tend to fly between the lattice doing no harm instead of hitting anything at all. So, even if your total profile has as much as or even more area than a denser ship it does not really matter. If each strut is only a few meters wide, then that is the level of precision you need to target with in order to reliably land a hit.

Understanding how this relates to missiles depends on understanding what factors play into the accuracy of guided weapons. Guided weapons are not automatically 100% accurate. Missiles by their very definition have to move faster than the ships they are trying to target, this means that a missile capable of turning with the same G-force as a slower target will have a larger turning radius giving a slower defender more options avoid a fast missile than the missile has to stay on track to hit the target. This wider arc creates an area of uncertainty with guided missiles which can only be made smaller by slowing the missile down.

Assuming the lattice ship is fighting a denser ship of otherwise similar cost and tech level, this means that the denser ship will either need to slow down it's missiles much more to reliably land a hit which gives the lattice ship much more opportunity to shoot down or simply outrun the missiles. Or it needs to fire so many missiles that it saturates the area of uncertainty enough that some missiles will hit by sheer dumb luck or process of elimination. Either way, the lattice ship will require a LOT more firepower to take out than its higher density counterpart.

Another consideration of this profile is the damage propagation of high explosives. When you shoot a densely designed ship, explosives have a continuous medium to travel through meaning a single impact can create a shockwave can traverse the whole ship destroying everything. But in this case, you have the same mass spread out over 1000s of times as much volume with no linear paths for the shockwave to propagate through; so, an explosion that would shred a same mass smaller ship would only take out a single strut on this design before very quickly dissipating into the vacuum of space.

Computercarguy also brought up a good point in comments about the possibility of using of proximity explosives to turn a near miss into a hit, but what is true in our world is not always true in outer space. When an aerospace vehicle is destroyed by proximity missiles, it is typically because it is hit by the sheer of the shockwave. Since shockwaves don't propagate in space the way they do in an atmosphere, a ship can not actually be harmed by a near miss from an explosive. Even Nukes don't make a meaningful shockwave in space (The radiation may still be pretty nasty for any humans you have onboard, but your options for blocking that are still much better than being able to take a direct hit from one). Fragmentation proximity weapons are also sub-optimal because ships by their very nature have to be engineered to sustain high speed impacts from micrometers; so, any viable ship design would already be specced out to survive a spray of small, high velocity shrapnel.

enter image description here

Internal capacity for magazines and hangars.

This is unnecessary in this case. It makes more sense to keep all ordnance and fighters on the outside where it is all armed and ready to go since you have the surface area to do so.

Please keep moving parts to a minimum. They may make the ship look cool, but they're a big "hit me" sign when it comes to Murphy's Law.

No moving parts required.

In-universe the only method of FTL travel is a Star Trek-esque warp drive. As such, it must have a nacelles (plural, in pairs), which follow the placement criteria listed here.

Because the shape is hollow, any pair of struts containing nacels will always have Line-of-sight to each other, and the curvature of the sphere ensures you will always have clear line of sight in front of and behind an opposite pair of struts. This gives the bonus that you can not tell at a cursory glance where on the ship the warp nacelles are.

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    $\begingroup$ The problem with this design is that the whole structure is needed to maintain structural integrity. Take out 1 or 2 intersections, and it becomes flimsy to the point where internal stresses start ripping it the rest of the way apart. And yes, it will take hits. Your drawing shows it to be pencil thin lines, but the reality is that each segment is going to be 20 -50 ft wide in order to be habitable, with all the storage, housing, labs, engineering and weapons bays, etc. Simple heat seeking missiles will easily target these. Dumb rounds might not hit it, but OP said missiles. $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2020 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ @computercarguy Because the OP asks about profile shape, he has made the option to miss an expectation in his setting. Yes, those struts might be 20 ft wide, but compared to what? If this is the mass ship the missiles are designed to hit then the alternative would be a ship that is 80-100 ft wide. If an 80-100ft wide ship might be missed then a 20ft wide strut will usually be missed. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Sep 1, 2020 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ Also, you are making a huge assumption about the ship's structure. Things only collapse when your remove enough of it's material to drop it's shape past its design threshold. If this is a war ship, then the idea is that the ship does not need all of its struts, that is an engineering problem to be considered, but not an inherent limitation. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Sep 1, 2020 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ You are assuming missiles are attracted to mass rather than heat, light, or the many other targeting systems available. Even if it were to detect mass, it would still likely be attracted to anything more dense than a vacuum, unless otherwise programmed to avoid debris, which wouldn't be the case in most space based battles. BTW, have you ever used a whiffle ball that has even a small a crack in it? It doesn't perform the same at all, and that crack is guaranteed to spread. In a structure as spindly as this is, every part is integral to the structural integrity of the whole. $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2020 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ The other issue with this design is that in order to actually miss this ship the missile has to miss twice, once on the way in and once on the way out. Also you say that a missile would tend to go through the gaps rather than the struts, but that is only true when it is flying at the center of the ball. If aimed at the edges the missile is essentially guaranteed to hit a strut, which defeats the entire purpose of this shape $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Sep 1, 2020 at 20:58

Without more information this question falls into the 'how long is a piece of string category

The shape of the vessel will be guided by engineering considerations. In theory virtually any shape is possible in the vacuum of space but the absolute key principals guiding the shape will be;

  1. the type of drive being used to propel it;
  2. The type of power system being used.

Everything else is just payload. For example any kind of fusion 'torch' drive would require a lot of separation space between the payload and the torch. And in between you need shielding and points for the attachment of fuel tanks. So what you get is what you see in lots of SF drawings a long thin spindle with the torch at one end and the crew module as far away from the 'hot' end as you can get it with payload strung along in between.

You are using 'warp drives'? So the question becomes what does the drive look like/what are its operating requirements. Two modules separated on either side of the main hull by booms aka Star Trek? Drive pods forward and aft? A spherical framework surrounding the core of the vessel???

Same goes for power systems. How many? what type? You want big fusion powered reactors the size of conventional power plants or lots of compact 'baby' cores?

Basically your decisions on these issues tell you where you can put everything else including missiles, tubes, box launchers, just attached to to the external hull, big modules at the end of long booms? Its your choice. But no-one can give you any kind of definitive answer until you answer these sorts of questions.

  • $\begingroup$ I did answer these in my question (they've been around since the first draft) $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2020 at 11:44
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    $\begingroup$ As far as I can determine, the only major one is the "warp drive" - the others are all safely handwaved into the "non-issues" section. $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2020 at 11:52

You might want to go with a sphere inside of a gyroscope.

The sphere would be the living and work space, while the cage around it would house the armaments and the engines.


I'm thinking something like this "untippable" gyro-bowl. (Link for image and description only. I'm not suggesting a product or promoting a retailer.)


This allows you to swing your engines and weapons around without having to go through the problems, and inertia, of changing the orientation of the whole ship. I'm sure I've seen this somewhere before, but I can't remember where. I want to say there were moveable weapon systems on the skin of the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 space station, but that's a vague memory of a semi-generic space battle.

Anyway, this would allow for quicker changes in angles of attack and defense, sort of like the Marksman-H training remote from Star Wars.

The problem with that is if you have a single cage ring, your engines are on the same platform as your weapons, so you are limited in your movements when firing the weapons during battle. With multiple rings, you are limited by not wanting to fire a weapon into the outer ring(s), even though it would allow for more total weapons platforms without hindering interior living space as well as giving the ship more maneuverability.

With enough rings, you could have a fairly flat looking ship with just a "bubble" in the center, but then spreading the rings out, you could become an armadillo version of a porcupine with weapons pointing at nearly any 3D point in space.

Gyroscopes are nothing new in spaceship design and could work in multiple capacities, besides as a weapons and engine platform.

Alternate version

And really, it doesn't have to be exactly a gyroscope. You could have a single axis of rotation along the direction of travel, and then a series of rings attached to it to have a similar effect. The engines could then be fixed to the main body and the weapons rotating around that single axis. Again, this could be flattened for normal operations and deployed for battles or used as armor for an unusually dense area of space debris. At this point, your center wouldn't have to be a sphere, but a sphere has the largest interior volume for it's surface area. The problem is that you've put all of the moving parts in one location for a single point of failure. This may mean that maintenance is easier, but crippling your ship becomes easier, too.

The sphere has the smallest surface area of all surfaces that enclose a given volume, and it encloses the largest volume among all closed surfaces with a given surface area.[11] The sphere therefore appears in nature: for example, bubbles and small water drops are roughly spherical because the surface tension locally minimizes surface area.


Engine defenses

One problem with a fixed engine location is that you might want to hide your engines, so the enemy can't fire on them directly. How many times have we seen a space battle end with someone swinging around behind the enemy to fire on their engines and disable them? Well, not anymore. The enemy goes one way around you, and the engines go the opposite way around the ship.

  • But wouldn't that put the living space in danger? Maybe, but why not have the weapons or heavy armor swing around to face the attacker at the same time?
  • Oh, the aft shield is failing, because they are concentrating their fire on it? Swing another shield around to help or replace the failing or overwhelmed one.
  • There's multiple bogies? That's why we have multiple rings that have more than just one weapons system and shielding on it.

Moving parts

Yes, this has a lot of moving parts, but it significantly increases the surface area considerably.

Also, once deployed, nothing says the rings have to keep moving with respect to each other. Keeping them locked together will help prevent self damage, but can still allow moving them around the "bubble".

Beveled surface

And the rings don't have to be flat faced. They can have a curved or beveled face, so they can fire at more of an angle than radially from the axis of spin. This would produce more of a cross-fire pattern, allowing an angle of attack from more than just a single ring at a time. This makes not hitting yourself more difficult, but that's what automatic safety systems built into the ship are for.

Sure, rockets and torpedoes can change direction, but that uses a lot of propellant and time. The shallower the turn, the faster it can home in on the enemy.


I read a really neat space opera, I forget the name or author, where the missiles were not actually on the ship, they where in pods attached to the ship. The ship itself was basically the drive, living quarters, and command deck.

In such a construction, the missile pods could actually be detached from the ship, and sent on their way, completely automated. They could be dropped off, and left to drift behind the ship, protecting its six. They could be dropped off around a planet, to be used as remote firing platforms. They could all be detached from the ship at once, and every missile fired at the same time. As an enemy approached, they could be dropped off in sequence, forming a long line of missile launchers along its path. Since the missiles fire in the pods when they are detached from the mother ship, Newtons Laws do not apply to the mother ship. As the missiles were used up or deployed, the bulk and profile of the ship dimimished, to the point where if all the pods were deployed, the ship was basically an escape pod, able to travel at exceptional velocity and highly maneuverable. The 'enemy' would have to concentrate on the automated missile pods. It would be a 'drop and run' engagement.

As a design concept, think of Titanium Turtle's design of a sequence of slices or segments, each segment entirely of missiles in launch tubes, like the missile launcher in Celia Fate's picture of a land missile carrier. All missiles in launch tubes, no need for loading. The segments would all be capable of detaching from the main mother ship, end one first, like a tow tug dropping off barges.

After they are all deployed, the only thing left of the mother ship would be the end stub. Like an old fachioned pencil being sharpened time after time until nothing but the eraser and a stub is left.

Space operas that base their designs for battleships, etc. on earth-based naval warfare entirely miss the reality of space. You don't need the huge infrastructure of a battlship and the hundredds of men it takes to crew them when all you need are the guns and a handful of commanders. Think a minimally crewed submarine, where everything is drive motor, navigation, and launch tubes.

  • $\begingroup$ I believe this is later on in the Honor Harrington series $\endgroup$
    – Aibobot
    Sep 1, 2020 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Aibobot possibly, I read a few episodes of this series. $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2020 at 13:58

A Sphere, Reference Warhammer40k Kroot Warsphere

enter image description here

The Sphere have a lot of surface for missile pod.

See Warsphere in action in the video here (game BATTLEFLEET GOTHIC ARMADA 2 )

enter image description here Launch missile


For a quick primer on the concept of missile boats as they pertain to space.. let us take a minute to review missile boats as they exist today. Here is USS Shiloh, a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser in the US Navy.

USS Shiloh, Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser

Shiloh sports 2x 64-cell Mk-41 vertical launch batteries. 128 is a lot of missiles. But also as important are the massive radars, and the sensor and processing systems that guide those missiles. And the powerplants that power those radars and the fire control circuitry for the missiles. And the berthing, mess hall, fresh water and other life support system for the crew that operate and maintain all of those systems. A warship is a system of systems. It is challenging to fit it all together effectively. Ultimately it will always have a tradeoff of size, speed, power, weapons, defenses, armor, sensors, fuel reserves.. that may be more granular than you're thinking right now but the point is it's not just about the missiles. My ideal missile boat would consider:

A- is not too large / expensive. Is pretty economical to build, maintain and upgrade. Otherwise they will spend most of their time in the yard and no one will want to risk losing one in a battle.

B- has great sensors, processing power and can track and engage hundreds of targets simultaneously even in heavy radar jamming or radiation interference environments. It will need lots and lots of radiation shielding to function and operate in space. One big antenna represents a single point of failure and might be lost to a micro-meteor or something.. so maybe cover the whole hull in synthetic distributed apertures that the computer can then mesh together to simulate an antenna the size of the whole ship. Bonus points if you can data link with remote probes and other vessels to simulate an even larger antenna

C- can carry a significant number of powerful anti-ship missiles. Payloads strong enough to threaten very large capital ships, space stations and engage in planetary bombardment, and launch them quickly. (Vertical launch tubes sound ideal here). The tubes do not necessarily need to be facing the target. The missile can just quickly eject out of the launch tube then maneuver itself to the correct attitude before firing its engine. Bonus points for a 2 stage booster that can extend the range. More bonus points if you have an organic on-ship manufacturing capability to fabricate its own replacement missiles. Bearing in mind that the warheads are just as dangerous to the launching ship if they explode while still in the tube, one hit to a carelessly placed VLS battery could cost you the whole ship. So maybe recess the batteries? You'll trade off some carrying capacity for greater survivability there.

D- Is quick and nimble enough to close to firing range, and has plenty of fuel / other consumable resources so it can remain on patrol or on-station like blockade duty for long periods without resupply

E- has defensive systems like ECM antennas, point defenses, lightweight composite reactive armor.

As for its final shape? I'm partial to the arrowhead / wedge. But that's just me. It has to stand up to the structural strain of rapid acceleration / deceleration. It has to be able to take a hit without getting completely disabled. Backup systems, maybe even 2 reactors (fore and aft). Certainly not anything the size of a Dreadnought or other super space structure.

  • $\begingroup$ (A) is not a problem - ships are carved out of asteroids/debris/solid blocks via nanotech. In any event, thanks for your suggestions - I'll keep them in mind. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2020 at 12:08

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