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View Full Version : How do you forcibly board a spaceship or space station?



Amaril
2015-12-09, 08:29 PM
So one thing from games and spacefaring sci-fi in general that I've never really understood is, how does one conduct boarding attacks on spacecraft or stations? Specifically, I wonder about atmosphere--in order to board by force, you'd have to breach the hull somewhere, but that would vent the atmosphere inside (unless your method of boarding also created a seal), so how would you then get inside safely? Is this kind of thing only practical if the attackers have equipment that lets them operate in vacuum?

I know it's a thing that features in plenty of stories, so I'm probably just not familiar enough with those to have a good idea of how it can work. I'd like to hear any possible suggestions or existing examples, since I find the idea really cool and I'd like to understand it better.

VoxRationis
2015-12-09, 08:50 PM
Attacking specifically at extant docking points (like the Empire did with Tantive IV or the Covenant did with the Pillar of Autumn) is an option I've seen used. However, this requires that the attackers come through a choke point, which makes taking the ship that much harder.

Some attackers might consider venting the hull to be a reasonable trick, figuring that it would be easy to repair and replace the atmosphere once the derelict ship has been transported back to a support station.

Some (harder, in most cases) sci-fi would argue that attempting to do anything like board a hostile ship is suicide, since closing to range of actual physical contact would expose one to significant weapons fire. To avoid this, you'd need to first incapacitate the ship.

If your setting has teleportation, that makes things easier, so long as a good view/understanding of the destination can be achieved (spies will be helpful in that regard).

Frankly, in all too many instances, it's just sort of glossed over.

Strigon
2015-12-09, 08:51 PM
Sometimes it's about breaching the hull and plugging the hole all at once, and so you have properly shaped boarding craft for that purpose.
Other times, you board at the entrance, but that's usually reserved for either large craft with a hangar bay, or smaller craft that have been disabled and can't run away.

There's a third, less common option that only really works with strike teams; you breach the hull, and very quickly move inside the ship, slipping past any closing doors before they're sealed. Obviously you can't get a full-sized platoon in this way, but a few elite troops can often cause havoc on an opposing ship.

Of course, there are other options; teleporters work, if you have them. If you aren't feeling fancy, you can just suit up, blast a hole and not worry about the atmosphere. Really, any way works, and they can all theoretically be done; just figure out which way makes the most sense thematically. For example, Star Wars handwaves a lot of stuff, so boarding is as simple as flying through a barrier that keeps the air inside. Star Trek is neat and clean; boarding is simply teleporting in. Firefly is gritty(ish), so boarding is actually docking, or piercing the hull with a space suit on. Figure out where your universe fits in.

Adderbane
2015-12-09, 08:58 PM
A boarding craft could attach itself to the hull and easily make a seal before cutting a hole. Then send in battle drones, marines, or whatever else you've got until the ship is yours. If their point defenses are in bad enough shape to hook your troop transport to their hull they're pretty much helpless and boarding is more of a formality than anything .

VoxRationis
2015-12-09, 09:03 PM
A boarding craft could attach itself to the hull and easily make a seal before cutting a hole. Then send in battle drones, marines, or whatever else you've got until the ship is yours. If their point defenses are in bad enough shape to hook your troop transport to their hull they're pretty much helpless and boarding is more of a formality than anything .

I'd argue that the boarding wouldn't be a formality. Unless the crew is by this point completely incapacitated, the close confines of the ship will make them very difficult to defeat. The attackers, coming from a limited number of boarding craft, are easily flanked, pinned down, or enfiladed (for example, if the points of access open out into a hallway parallel to the hull). The boarding party might well not know the layout of the ship, and the defenders might be able to close doors to trap or cut off their attackers. The boarding party has a high chance of failure, all in all. The defenders' loss of the ship is what's assured, since clearly their ship is crippled to the point where they can be finished off at leisure.

Mastikator
2015-12-09, 09:12 PM
A rocket shaped rocket ship with a super hard pointy tip. Collide into the spaceship and pierce the hull.
Open the tip where crew pour in and unleash hell.


You can soften the hull where the ship will collide by blasting it with a high powered laser, which would increase the temperature and therefore drastically reduce the hardness. If you can get it to melting point you could literally weld the rocket ship into the space ship.

Amaril
2015-12-09, 09:19 PM
Attacking specifically at extant docking points (like the Empire did with Tantive IV or the Covenant did with the Pillar of Autumn) is an option I've seen used. However, this requires that the attackers come through a choke point, which makes taking the ship that much harder.

Other times, you board at the entrance, but that's usually reserved for either large craft with a hangar bay, or smaller craft that have been disabled and can't run away.

Okay, but I don't really understand how this can work. Don't all entrances to spacecraft have to be airlocks? Which would mean that if they're sealed, and you force the outer portal open, they no longer work, and subsequently forcing the inner portal would still vent the interior? There must be something I'm not getting.


There's a third, less common option that only really works with strike teams; you breach the hull, and very quickly move inside the ship, slipping past any closing doors before they're sealed. Obviously you can't get a full-sized platoon in this way, but a few elite troops can often cause havoc on an opposing ship.

Right, but this would also entail at least momentary exposure to vacuum, right? Since emergency bulkheads (if I'm using the right term for the doors you see in some sci-fi that close over hull breaches) can't seal instantly, and if they could, boarding would be impossible anyway.

TheIronGolem
2015-12-09, 09:29 PM
Breach the hull and send boarders in spacesuits. Very dangerous for the boarders, since even the most minor injury is a serious risk (unless they're robots or something).

Threaten the target ship with destruction if they don't submit to boarding. May not be viable if you can't afford to actually destroy the ship or whatever McGuffin is on it, but has the potential for zero-casualty capture.

Trojan Horse: Smuggle a boarding party in through typical docking procedures.

themaque
2015-12-09, 09:37 PM
Okay, but I don't really understand how this can work. Don't all entrances to spacecraft have to be airlocks? Which would mean that if they're sealed, and you force the outer portal open, they no longer work, and subsequently forcing the inner portal would still vent the interior? There must be something I'm not getting.


Yes, but in the Star Wars Example, you actually see them using some kind of shape charge to blow the door open, and like people mentioned it's a bottleneck they are trying to push themselves through.

It really depends on a multitude of variables as to why and how is the best approach.

Are you trying to take the ship alive? Are you trying to take people alive? Are you trying to breach a hostage situation? Are you making a smash and grab for a particular object?

As people have mentioned, It's conceivable to have a small ship with a sealable ring front, that attaches to a ship, cuts a whole, and the people inside can drop a flash/bang then enter without being exposed to vacuum. Is it a high risk proposition? Of course just like assaulting any secure location.

Plus Vacuum isn't the instant explosion you see in films. so minimal exposure with the proper equipment could be worth it in the right risk/reward scenario.

Cluedrew
2015-12-09, 09:45 PM
My favourite solution it the boarding clamp, which is like a docking clamp except with drills to make a door on the other ship. You can stick these on specialized boarding ships or at the end of tubes/arms that come from a larger ship. Use more than one in addition to the usual breach and clear tactics to offset the bottleneck problem.

In fact except for the vacuum and advance weapons is it just a 3d version of a good old castle siege. Which is to say it is tangentially related to a good old castle siege.

Strigon
2015-12-09, 09:55 PM
Okay, but I don't really understand how this can work. Don't all entrances to spacecraft have to be airlocks? Which would mean that if they're sealed, and you force the outer portal open, they no longer work, and subsequently forcing the inner portal would still vent the interior? There must be something I'm not getting.



Right, but this would also entail at least momentary exposure to vacuum, right? Since emergency bulkheads (if I'm using the right term for the doors you see in some sci-fi that close over hull breaches) can't seal instantly, and if they could, boarding would be impossible anyway.

Sometimes you can dock with the actual ship, form a hermetic seal between your ships, and move in that way, but that only works if you can outmaneuver the opposing ship; so if it's a space station, or it has been crippled. Any other way, (unless you hand-wave it) will require an exposure to vacuum.

As for the strike team, yes, but there are ways to make that not an issue; you'd have to be inside in seconds before the bulkhead seals, so you wouldn't need huge amounts of life support. You can either ditch the equipment once you're inside, or you can incorporate it into your actual combat gear. This is how it was done in one of the Halo novels, and something similar happened in Star Wars: Republic Commando. You have heavy armour that also has a hermetic seal, put your best soldiers in it and let them loose on the enemy ship.

(Also, might want to change that last quote; I said that :smalltongue:)

Amaril
2015-12-09, 09:58 PM
Sometimes you can dock with the actual ship, form a hermetic seal between your ships, and move in that way, but that only works if you can outmaneuver the opposing ship; so if it's a space station, or it has been crippled. Any other way, (unless you hand-wave it) will require an exposure to vacuum.

As for the strike team, yes, but there are ways to make that not an issue; you'd have to be inside in seconds before the bulkhead seals, so you wouldn't need huge amounts of life support. You can either ditch the equipment once you're inside, or you can incorporate it into your actual combat gear. This is how it was done in one of the Halo novels, and something similar happened in Star Wars: Republic Commando. You have heavy armour that also has a hermetic seal, put your best soldiers in it and let them loose on the enemy ship.

(Also, might want to change that last quote; I said that :smalltongue:)

So you did. My apologies :smalltongue:

And okay, I feel like I get it now. Thanks for all the examples, everybody.

Admiral Squish
2015-12-09, 10:43 PM
Personally, I feel like space-boarding is dramatically undervalued in sci-fi, particularly when it comes to universes with robotic soldiers available. Star wars in particular.
Space is pretty much the most hostile place for human life as we know it. All that protects the human occupants of a spaceship from that lethal void is a hull And unless the hull is incredibly tough, it's not a perfect defense. And that's something most weapon designers keep in mind. Sci-fi weapons typically don't completely obliterate enemy ships, they're usually small, high-velocity ballistics, or focused energy weapons. All they have to do is punch a hole in a ship and let it bleed air, and enough of those holes together will violate the structure of the ship to the point it will simply tear itself apart. Kinda like with submarines. If your troops don't need atmosphere, then a lot of those weapons don't do all that much to their vehicles. If you pop a balloon, it explodes, but if you put a hole in an empty balloon, it doesn't actually do all that much.
The best way to take over a large spaceship ship with robot soldiers would be to send them in small, fast, kamikaze-style boarding craft, with just enough armor and shields to make it through the point defenses and pierce the hull. Boarding craft punch through the hull and vent atmosphere. The enemy forces will have two choices, either seal off that section or equip everyone on the ship with combat-rated vacuum suits. Then your robots emerge with cutting tools. They punch holes in the hull, in bulkheads, and doors as they move, let them vent, and once they're hard vacuum, they open them up and move through to the next section, repeating the process. Even advanced tech devoted to patching holes with force fields and similar will be massively draining on the ship, and with multiple breaches, even the most dedicated damage control systems are going to give out eventually. Moving human troops to repel boarders like these would require combat-rated vacuum suits, and opening previously sealed sections onto hard vacuum. It might not be impossible to counter the tactic, but it would be much, much more difficult than normal, and every move would require a high degree of coordination and preparation. Any misstep cedes ground almost irrevocably to the enemy, and all the while you'd be facing down boarders, you'd still be fighting a space battle as well.

goto124
2015-12-09, 10:43 PM
Trojan Horse: Smuggle a boarding party in through typical docking procedures.

This seems the most viable way so far - sneaking in.

Besides, the people forcing/getting their way into the ship might actually want to have living hostages, or for a ship that still works, etc.

VoxRationis
2015-12-09, 10:58 PM
-snip-

Aside from the difficulties of having boarding craft survive hundreds of thousands of kilometers of fire (boarding hasn't been common in our naval history since the Age of Steam, thanks to increasing weapon range and damage, and those would be practically melee compared to space-viable weaponry), many cultures would have misgivings about robots programmed to methodically space organics.

Steampunkette
2015-12-09, 11:29 PM
The biggest problem with boarding actions against star ships is actually the weapons involved.

In sci-fi we are routinely shown weapons of great power that cut through people and often steel. Such a weapon used against a moving target would almost certainly do incredible damage to the ship's systems and possibly hull, or the oddly existent giant glass windows in much of Sci fi.

In hard Sci fi, however boarding without permission could only reasonably be done through stealth, since matching speeda, vectors, and other factors would make both ships very vulnerable to destruction by collision. Especially when the ship being attacked could rapidly alter it's rotational velocity or angle, throwing the attack ship off its mark.

Admiral Squish
2015-12-09, 11:50 PM
Aside from the difficulties of having boarding craft survive hundreds of thousands of kilometers of fire (boarding hasn't been common in our naval history since the Age of Steam, thanks to increasing weapon range and damage, and those would be practically melee compared to space-viable weaponry), many cultures would have misgivings about robots programmed to methodically space organics.

Well, I'm not talking about launching boarding craft from planetside, first off. These would be a modified style of fighter craft. Short-range, very small, fast, and highly maneuverable. Far more maneuverable than manned craft of similar size, as they wouldn't have to carry the mass of weapon systems or life support. Not to mention, they would be capable of maneuvers that would cause organic pilots to pass out. They'd basically just be engines with a little bit of shielding, kinetic missiles with a payload of robots instead of explosives. Even if they get hit and break apart, unless the point defenses can target and vaporize every piece of scrap from them, it's possible the robots could just float on their momentum to attach to the ship anyways. Large ships would likely have at least a few points on the hull that can't be fired upon directly by their point defenses. They'd be launched from capital ships, and supported by covering fire, too.

I mean, realistically, yeah. There's a lot of technologies that would have to happen for this to be viable. At the moment, it looks like realistic space combat is going to be a matter of laser-sniping enemy ships from astronomical distances. But if a universe where short-range ship-to-ship space battles are a valid approach, this is a tactically sound option.

As to cultural misgivings, well, I'm sure there would be cultures unwilling to employ boarding drones. I'm also sure that those cultures would face a significant disadvantage when squaring off against cultures that ARE willing.

Mongobear
2015-12-09, 11:52 PM
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-x6a3YPhs02w/UwzGsEBYRhI/AAAAAAAAToA/OvSeKDkYywI/s1600/Dreadclawbanner1.jpg

Taking a page out of Warhammer 40k, Chaos Space Marines with this one.

They had "drop pods" that could latch onto the target craft, and then chew/dril through the hull of the ship and open into the interior.

Also, hacking the warp pads, or just flat out teleporting onto the vessel is always an option, if that sort of technology exists ofcourse.

VoxRationis
2015-12-10, 01:01 AM
Well, I'm not talking about launching boarding craft from planetside, first off. These would be a modified style of fighter craft. Short-range, very small, fast, and highly maneuverable.
"Short-range" means "slow" in space.


Far more maneuverable than manned craft of similar size, as they wouldn't have to carry the mass of weapon systems or life support.
They do have to carry the mass of hull-cutting robots. If those robots are independently capable of functioning after the rest of the missile has been turned to scrap by point defense, like you say later, they have to be sufficiently independent from the locomotory functions that they're effectively a weapons system.

Large ships would likely have at least a few points on the hull that can't be fired upon directly by their point defenses. They'd be launched from capital ships, and supported by covering fire, too.
At space-battle distances, the geometries of the ship hulls become largely irrelevant, because the time it takes to rotate the ship to bring a weapon to bear is insignificant next to the time it takes a slower-than-light object to close with the ship (particularly if it's traveling at a slow enough velocity that the object has a chance of delivering functional machinery to the target). Covering fire is also not relevant in a ship-to-ship battle because the "gunners" of the defending ship are no more endangered by firing than they are by not firing—unlike with infantry, you can't force a ship not to take action by shooting in their direction.

As to cultural misgivings, well, I'm sure there would be cultures unwilling to employ boarding drones. I'm also sure that those cultures would face a significant disadvantage when squaring off against cultures that ARE willing.
Until the squeamish cultures realize their enemies squandered their resources on slower, more complicated missiles that can be fought off with marines, instead of more practical weapons.

Lvl 2 Expert
2015-12-10, 01:32 AM
Breach the hull, in several places. Wait a while, plug the hull with boarding ships, have those pump in new air, board. :smalltongue:

holywhippet
2015-12-10, 02:01 AM
If you have the other ship/station outgunned then order them to drop shields or whatever and hold still while you send a boarding party over. The ability to board depends on the setting and the range over which combat occurs. I've been going through David Weber's books about Honor Harrington and in that setting you pretty much have to have your target under threat of blasting or cripple their ship. Battle in his universe takes place over really long ranges so getting up close to forcibly board a ship is nigh on impossible.

Otherwise I'd suggest some kind of assault shuttles or pods that hook to the target, seal against the hull somehow then cut through. Or, if your troops have decent space suits just blast a hole in and charge through.

Ashtagon
2015-12-10, 02:13 AM
Dark Matter: Hostile boarding normally takes the form of "unexpected guests" rather than a follow-up to space battles.

Star Trek Enterprise: Hostile boarding normally takes place by docking with the side-mounted docking ports. This is either after a demonstrable show of superiority ("let us board or we blow you up"), or deception ("we come in peace"). This creates choke points. It can also result in damage to the docking ports if the ships undock "unexpectedly".

Stargate Universe: Hostile boarding is either internally through the stargate, or by first landing on the hull and then drilling through an external bulkhead. The ships life systems detect the hull breach via air loss when the invader ship undocks, and raises a the hull shields locally to compensate for the lack of hull on that spot.

Admiral Squish
2015-12-10, 03:49 AM
Short-range means short-range. Speed depends on the launching and the propulsion. Sure, with chemical rockets alone, that would be slow, but depending on the universe, we could be talking about a thousand thousand different methods of propulsion. They could be fired by rail-cannons, bringing them to incredible velocities and using their fuel only to maneuver. They could be using warp to skip through the space between ships. They could be adjusting their mass in conjunction with traditional rockets to accelerate as though they weighted as much as a baseball.

As the the mass of the robots, depends on the design and the number. A dozen humanoids of solid, armored metal? Yeah. One or two skeletal, collapsible battle droids? Maybe. A dozen bowling ball sized spiders with laser cutters? Not so much.

Again, it depends. The distances of engagement we're talking about vary by universe. if we're talking about distances measured in astronomical terms, yes. If we're talking about capital ships within a mile of one another, no. Covering fire in this context is not about forcing the opponent to take cover, but to keep them distracted. If you're hammering them with weapons fire, they're more likely to return fire with all weapons and less likely to notice a couple abnormal blips in a field of chaff. It could also mean weapons fire intercepting projectiles and ships that might be trying to intercept the boarders.

Look, sure, a missile would probably be cheaper. And a laser cheaper still. But instead of opening one chamber to hard vacuum with an explosive payload, a payload of robot boarders can vent chamber after chamber after chamber, and along the way, they distract the enemy, interfere with ship functions, and even take control of vital areas, like, say, the bridge, or engineering, or the shields, or the engines, or the teleporter... And, in the end, you have an added bonus in that if your boarders take control, you get a whole new ship, mostly intact, including any intelligence the ship may be carrying, all the enemy's proprietary technology.

goto124
2015-12-10, 03:54 AM
The last paragraph means "you sometimes/often don't want to destroy your enemy's ship".

Storm_Of_Snow
2015-12-10, 04:06 AM
The Babylon Five episode Severed Dreams also has a boarding pod that clamps onto the station's hull, cuts through, then the assault troops board.

Vac-sealed armour gives you the option of just cutting through doors and letting the atmosphere vent into space as you go - although if it's a combat situation, most ships have probably got nearly all areas of their ship depressurised anyway (except for the medical facilities, any passenger accomodations and possibly the bridge, tactical control and engineering) to limit fire damage and loss of atmosphere through hull breaches.

Mutazoia
2015-12-10, 04:25 AM
The type of boarding action really depends on the type of ship/station you are boarding. Unless you are boarding a military ship/station, you can count on most of the crew to not be combat trained, so once you get inside, the rest is fairly easy (this is why large cargo ships with 20+ crewmen are hijacked by 4 or 5 Somali Pirates).

For civilian ships, especially luxury liners, the crew is going to want to avoid as much damage and blood-shed as possible, so they are most likely to simply surrender after a few shots across the bow (so to speak) and let you pull along side and dock. Freighters might make a run for it, since they don't have passengers they have to keep alive for insurance reasons. Crippling the engines and venting a few sections into space via weapons fire will often be enough for them to get the hint. Plus putting a few holes in the hull will allow space suit wearing pirates (or who ever) to enter fairly easily.

Space ship design would follow fairly closely to the same rules as water going ship design. So flooded compartments, or in this case, compartments exposed to vacuum, will act like air-locks on their own: Most will have more than one egress that will be air/water tight. Enter one, seal it and open the other. At most you let the (relatively) little water in that room into the next compartment (or let some more air into the vented compartment). In a sci-fi setting, it's not unthinkable that one could carry along a small life support system that could re-introduce air into the now sealed compartment. The place where movies/TV get it wrong is that the long hallways are designed to run along the center line of the vessel, never along the hull, so that a hull breach can be quickly sealed simply by sealing the affected compartment(s) with out sacrificing sea (space) worthyness in all but the most catastrophic circumstances. And no...these wouldn't be able to be locked down from "engineering" or the bridge. That would make damage control and rescue situations impossible and could result in loss of the ship in an accident. Every door would most likely have it's own emergency power supply and an over-ride panel, so that damage control teams could open them with out having to wait for some one in a nice safe control room to do it for them.

Space stations would follow the same general rules, but they would have many more airlocks and docking ports that an attacker could use to gain entrance, as the outer hull would be in constant need of maintenance, and ships could constantly need to dock to deliver/take on supplies. Breaching the hull would not really be necessary except in the most dire situations (or if you were just in the mood to be really violent).

Where you actually have to worry about breaching the hull and getting a boarding team across fast would be with the military vessels, where you can count on most, if not all of the crew being combat trained.

Kami2awa
2015-12-10, 05:09 AM
I could be wrong, but doesn't the opening of Star Wars include Vader's ship pulling Leia's ship inside itself? After that, your soldiers can break in easily without concern for vacuum.

If "boarding pods" that clamp onto the outside of the ship are common, I'd actually expect to see some ships built with a thin ablative layer on the outside that can be jettisoned when the pod attaches, taking the pod with it before the enemy can cut their way in (or afterwards, sucking the enemy out through the hole they just made) . This was the approach taken in Farscape when an enemy stuck themselves magnetically to the ship's hull.

If punching your way in with brute force is used (as with the boarding torpedoes in 40k), you could seal the hole behind you with a large amount of expanding resin.

Another way in would actually be siege warfare - spaceships are often not built to last long with external supplies of food, water, oxygen etc so you can simply wait out the enemy.

Necroticplague
2015-12-10, 08:10 AM
Well, how you board it depends on why your boarding it, and what technology you have access to. If the setting is advanced enough,and you want to run the ship after you take it, you might teleport people on there to avoid hull breaches. If you have some method of making air, (either on the target ship or on yours) you might try breaching the hull as an intentional way to kill the crew while leaving the ship relatively intact. If you lack either, you might breach the hull, then extend a part of you ship into the hole, creating a temporary airlock (and plug for the hole), which doubles as an entry point for your troops.

Or, you could simply deal with the venting, and come equipped for fighting in a vacuum. Assuming humanoid biology, vacuum isn't actually too big a deal. Most of our body does a good job of keeping its internal pressure, so the only real concern is the ears, eyes, and fact there's no air. Conveniently, all 3 of which can be taken care of with a, airtight helmet and air tank.

Strigon
2015-12-10, 09:24 AM
I could be wrong, but doesn't the opening of Star Wars include Vader's ship pulling Leia's ship inside itself? After that, your soldiers can break in easily without concern for vacuum.

Another way in would actually be siege warfare - spaceships are often not built to last long with external supplies of food, water, oxygen etc so you can simply wait out the enemy.

1) Yes, but that's incredibly risky. You would have to disable all of the weapon systems first, and even then a dummy ship outfitted with a nuclear bomb would leave your ship as a scattering pile of debris. It can be done, but it's probably the worst way to go about it, unless you can be absolutely sure it's safe.

2) Actually, even today, most of them have CO2 scrubbers, and in science fiction it's not that uncommon for ships to be able to recycle food. Besides, how would siege warfare even work against a ship that can fly pretty much anywhere?

Trekkin
2015-12-10, 09:44 AM
In sufficiently hard sci-fi, you don't, for much the same reason you don't dogfight in space fighters. Keeping things to human acceleration makes them vulnerable.

A boarding craft is, in essence, a missile with a bunch of marines holding onto it -- but it's a missile that has to flip around and spend delta-v decelerating, which makes it painfully obvious it is not a normal projectile and also gives the defenders more time to bring their point defense equipment to bear. It also has to do this with enough propellant to get back home, so it's even bigger and slower than a normal missile anyway. Now, they do have a use once you've compelled the defenders to switch off their point defenses, but in this case they are a means of accepting rather than compelling surrender. So I suppose you could say you forcibly board a spaceship by pointing your largest weapon at it and asking that they not do anything to your boarding craft that would induce you to fire. I rather like the resultant tension, from a narrative perspective.

If you need to board a vessel that is somehow compliant with your request but unable to accommodate your boarding craft's docking adapter, you could always bring a spare docking adapter and weld it over whatever they have. You've got more than enough time, and you'll want the necessary equipment along anyway.

Eldan
2015-12-10, 10:26 AM
From my extensive expperience in failing at Kerbal Space programm, I'd say that the way to go is clearly docking ports. There's not much of an other way.

Strigon
2015-12-10, 10:39 AM
From my extensive expperience in failing at Kerbal Space programm, I'd say that the way to go is clearly docking ports. There's not much of an other way.

No, no; nonsense.
You can use a Klaw, or simply use a jetpack and fly over after matching velocity.

Storm_Of_Snow
2015-12-10, 11:32 AM
Most of our body does a good job of keeping its internal pressure, so the only real concern is the ears, eyes, and fact there's no air. Conveniently, all 3 of which can be taken care of with a, airtight helmet and air tank.
You'd need at least pressure-retaining underpants, otherwise you'll involuntarily evacuate your bowels and bladder (and the effects on a woman's uterus might not be pleasant for them), and preferably a vest as well to keep some external pressure on your chest cavity, plus you'd have the effects of the capillaries close to the surface of your skin rupturing (and any significant blood loss injuries could potentially cause you to bleed out in very short order, so you might want some armour, especially if you're going in through hull breaches made by weapons fire that could easily have jagged edges or debris), and if you're exposed for any length of time, you'll need something to radiate your body temperature away before you start to suffer from heatstroke.

Although we can probably assume you won't be exposed long enough for radiation or micro-meteorites to become an issue.

And of course, that's assuming the crew of the ship you're boarding don't play around with the environmental systems to try and incapacitate or kill you - dialling artifical gravity up to massive levels leaving invaders crushed against the floor, randomly redirecting it to throw them around, inverting it for a split second so they fly up towards the ceiling, then switching it back again long enough to stop their momentum before finally switching it off and leaving them floating helplessly in mid air, strobing the lights to confuse, induce nausea or potentially even seizures, pumping up the air pressure so that it becomes difficult to expand the chest cavity on inhalation and they eventually become exhausted just from trying to breathe, and so on.

And a docking port may be a dummy with a suitably massive weapon hidden behind it, just waiting for you to dock your own vessel, open the external door and give them a shot straight past your hull armour into your internal structure, while assault craft or jetpacking over could leave your boarding party dangerously short of supplies or a line of retreat.

Eldan
2015-12-10, 11:41 AM
Man, I'll have to try that, sometime in a space game. Apparently undefended docking port, only when you go in, there's like a dozen machine gun nests behind it.

Amaril
2015-12-10, 11:55 AM
For the record, my assumption was a setting with soft enough science that things like space-fighter dogfighting are common--personally, I think realistic laser sniping at astronomical distances makes for boring fiction.

Ashtagon
2015-12-10, 12:06 PM
You'd need at least pressure-retaining underpants, otherwise you'll involuntarily evacuate your bowels and bladder (and the effects on a woman's uterus might not be pleasant for them), and preferably a vest as well to keep some external pressure on your chest cavity, plus you'd have the effects of the capillaries close to the surface of your skin rupturing (and any significant blood loss injuries could potentially cause you to bleed out in very short order, so you might want some armour, especially if you're going in through hull breaches made by weapons fire that could easily have jagged edges or debris), and if you're exposed for any length of time, you'll need something to radiate your body temperature away before you start to suffer from heatstroke. ...

GURPS has some of the most well-researched and reality-checked rules in existence. And they never mentioned the possibility of involuntary defecation or prolapsed orifices from vacuum exposure.

What it does mention is...

* You can't breathe. D&D accounts for this with suffocation rules (ie treated identically to drowning).
* You'll damage your lungs and nasal membranes if you try to hold your breath. D&D doesn't account for this. If a character knows that they should NOT try to hold their breath, it's a Survival check to resist the instinctive reflex to try. I believe D&D also reduces the duration you can survive if you do not hold your breath (which is an enforced necessity in unprotected vacuum).
* Vacuum that is in direct sunlight will typically be hotter than you might expect, and vacuum in shadow will typically be colder than expected. If you are not inside a hull, expect to take either heat or cold damage.
* Your eardrums will pop due to pressure differentials. In an explosive decompression situation, that's a Fortitude save to avoid eardrum damage. In any case, you're effectively deaf while in a vacuum, because sound won't travel through that.
* In a vacuum, body fluids will boil away from exposed membranous tissues. GURPS models this as the bends (as in that thing that affects deep sea divers who surface too quickly), plus potential dessication damage to the eyes.

Nothing about spilling your guts through your ring piece in that list.

Mark Hall
2015-12-10, 12:18 PM
Schlock Mercenary has considered stuff like this for years.

Blasting was an option, but it's now more expensive... and they chose this over going in through one of the air locks. (http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2001-10-08)

Then, of course, there's the teraport, and it's escalation. First, you can teraport into other's ships with impunity. Then, Teraport Area Denial keeps that from happening. Then they have teraport cages, which can push through TAD, but have limited size and power. And PD starts using a really innovative method, only terribly possible if you're an AI and a little bit nuts... accelerate a breacher close to light speed, slam it through the ship, and while inside the TAD, teraport out.

Cealocanth
2015-12-11, 12:26 AM
Most harder science fiction settings that do this kind of thing board a ship by using an EMP or a computer virus or nanomachines to disable the ship's thrusters (or if you're particularly evil, their life support). This essentially leaves a floating husk in space that can be docked with normally. The docking port makes a choke point that you will have to fight through, so wear your space-armor and fight your way on board. Ideally do this through multiple docking ports if your ship is big enough, or your crew is foolhardy/brave enough.

However, boarding parties, especially in space, are highly unnecessary in most cases. Unless you are trying to take hostages or salvage some kind of rare animal, what will be lost by simply breaching the hull and killing everybody on board? Use long-range plasma cannons to blast a hole in the side of the ship, well away from where your cargo is, and allow everybody on board to die horribly. Then, using EVA, have your crew salvage the loot left behind in the drifting husk. It will take you some time to repair the damage, but you can probably get her working again if you plan to capture the ship afterwards, assuming you have enough crew. If you're lucky, you won't even have to do this. Just send a threatening transmission, demonstrate your superior weapons technology, and wait for surrender.

DigoDragon
2015-12-11, 11:56 AM
Recently the movie 2010 came to mind. When the crew of the Alexei Leonov need to dock with the derelict ship Discovery, they see the ship tumbling along the Pitch axis. They send two of the crew in suits to float over and get into the ship and stabilize it first before docking the two ships together.

Just a thought when dealing with a disabled ship.

VoxRationis
2015-12-11, 12:39 PM
However, boarding parties, especially in space, are highly unnecessary in most cases. Unless you are trying to take hostages or salvage some kind of rare animal, what will be lost by simply breaching the hull and killing everybody on board?

I suppose it's possible that some buzzkill convention or something (Geneva IN SPACE!!!) has put a moratorium on that kind of tactic. Not to mention that after a while, crews will just prepare for atmospheric venting in preparation for combat. (Mass Effect's Codex describes that as standard procedure, though—as with about everything in space combat—they forgot to tell the cutscene staff about that.)

warty goblin
2015-12-11, 12:40 PM
You don't, because if the enemy ship is remotely built to repel boarders and you lack sufficient leverage to simply make the crew surrender, the instant you walk through the door you trip the ship's IFF system and get blasted into space marine confetti by the automated turrets.

Amaril
2015-12-11, 01:06 PM
You don't, because if the enemy ship is remotely built to repel boarders and you lack sufficient leverage to simply make the crew surrender, the instant you walk through the door you trip the ship's IFF system and get blasted into space marine confetti by the automated turrets.

Okay, yeah, I understand that being true, but like I said before, I think allowing boarding parties is one of those concessions that's okay to make in the interest of creating exciting scenes. I'm not asking about how you'd realistically go about doing it, just how you might plausibly justify it without completely ignoring the most obvious difficulties.

TheThan
2015-12-11, 01:52 PM
In Babylon 5 President Clarke’s loyal earthforce… soldiers used breaching pods to try to board the station from multiple points. Fortunately for Babylon 5 only one got through; the fighting was brutal and yes the boarders did run into a choke point where most of the heavy fighting occurred. Once the boarding pod made it’s connection to the station; it blew a hole in the bulkhead and soldiers streamed into the station. So it’s clear they had some form of soft seal so they could cross over without exposure.


In star trek Nemesis (yeah roll with it) the Remans beamed strike teams onto the enterprise. I’m assuming they tried to get them as close to vital systems as they could. Heck in TNG they beam people onto/off of the bridge really often.

ImNotTrevor
2015-12-11, 06:47 PM
Screw boarding the ship. Use magnetism and vast amounts of SCIENCE to launch a tungsten rod at relativistic speeds. That will impact stronger than a nuke (by several orders of magnitude) and suddenly there is no more ship. Use this weapon on everything. Destroy entire planets with a handful of cheap tungsten rods.

Conquer everything by throwing zero propellant, nigh impossible to detect or shoot down rods of tungsten flying at very nearly the speed of light at your enemies, and watch as they are converted to plasma and cooked meat.

ReaderAt2046
2015-12-11, 07:51 PM
So one thing from games and spacefaring sci-fi in general that I've never really understood is, how does one conduct boarding attacks on spacecraft or stations? Specifically, I wonder about atmosphere--in order to board by force, you'd have to breach the hull somewhere, but that would vent the atmosphere inside (unless your method of boarding also created a seal), so how would you then get inside safely? Is this kind of thing only practical if the attackers have equipment that lets them operate in vacuum?

I know it's a thing that features in plenty of stories, so I'm probably just not familiar enough with those to have a good idea of how it can work. I'd like to hear any possible suggestions or existing examples, since I find the idea really cool and I'd like to understand it better.

Well, you mentioned "Your method of boarding creating a seal", and that's how it's done in a lot of sci-fi works: Boarding pods that latch onto the hull or portable airlocks. There's also a lot of examples of attackers just wearing space suits.

CharonsHelper
2015-12-11, 08:29 PM
It all depends upon the sci-fi world's technology.

For example: In a world where shields dominate all but the most overwhelming offense, perhaps you can use your own shields as a counter to the enemy ones, allowing a ship itself to pierce the massive defenses with ease.

How fast are the ships relative to weaponry? How long-ranged are the weapons? How effective are targeting computers vs. maneuvering patterns? Perhaps - like in Mass Effect - there is a very good reason that such things can't be done with advanced AI.

Is there stealth technology in space? I've read some books which state that hiding in space is impossible since there is nothing to hide behind. Others have the ships covered in a Predator style stealth using camo screens and cameras to show what's on the other side of the ship. Such a stealth ship might be able to sneak up on another ship to bore a hole in the ship's hull and board it.

In a world I'm building - ships create gravity waves to traverse around solar systems because warp drives don't work around gravity - exaggerating the gravity of the star & planets to move about on the plane of the system. However, such gravity waves can be caught by their foes like an old sailing ship's wind, allowing said foes to catch up to them, only to slow an instant before impact to keep it from being a major collision.

Maybe boarding is only used when you have your foe on the ropes already in order to take the ship to use yourself - similarly to how it was sometimes used in the Napoleonic time period. (a surprising # of the ships in the British fleet were originally French)

So - even in relatively hard sci-fi, it's not that hard to come up with reasonable reasons why boarding opposing ships and/or stations is a viable tactic, or even a dominating one. (especially for multiple small ships vs a large one)

Would it make sense purely by exaggerating our current tech? No. But when has sci-fi set more than 10 years in the future been limited to that!?

CharonsHelper
2015-12-11, 08:32 PM
You don't, because if the enemy ship is remotely built to repel boarders and you lack sufficient leverage to simply make the crew surrender, the instant you walk through the door you trip the ship's IFF system and get blasted into space marine confetti by the automated turrets.

Depends how good your future versions of EMPs are. Or jamming systems. Or how hard they are to hack (you probably wouldn't have automated turrets inside your ship if there was a chance of them being hacked by the enemy to fire upon your own crew). etc.

In an RPG - there's no way that I'd have automated weapons become that dominant. That's boring to the players.

DigoDragon
2015-12-11, 08:34 PM
Is there stealth technology in space? I've read some books which state that hiding in space is impossible since there is nothing to hide behind. Others have the ships covered in a Predator style stealth using camo screens and cameras to show what's on the other side of the ship. Such a stealth ship might be able to sneak up on another ship to bore a hole in the ship's hull and board it.

Heat is likely going to be your biggest beacon to enemy sensors. It's also going to be the most difficult aspect to hide because you need to radiate it off your engines so you don't cook your crew.

CharonsHelper
2015-12-11, 08:36 PM
Heat is likely going to be your biggest beacon to enemy sensors. It's also going to be the most difficult aspect to hide because you need to radiate it off your engines so you don't cook your crew.

They actually solved that in Mass Effect. It was the entire reason that your ship was stealth & experimental. It has ginormous heat-sinks scattered throughout the hull to absorb excess heat etc.

Limited duration as the heat-sinks were eventually maxxed out - but no different than a submarine with limited air.

Though again - it depends upon the tech. How good are your heat sensors vs. how fast ships are? *shrug*

They are things to decide when creating the world - but they're certainly not insurmountable if you want your world to have certain things work.

AMFV
2015-12-11, 09:12 PM
According to the Marine Corps Urban warfare doctrine... You blow a hole in the side of it and board through that. Your folks are wearing space gear, so they don't mind the zero-g, and they can patch and seal the hole. This has the advantage of killing folks that aren't suited up, and it has the advantage of being in an unexpected direction, so you can't effectively prepare a defense, not against an enemy who can come from literally any direction, with probably very little warning.

The defense only has the advantage if you come from the direction they expect, otherwise ALL of the advantages are on the side of the offense (they're flanking, they have surprise, they can surround defensive positions, shock and awe). Hell if you don't mind blowing two holes in it, you can attack from two sides, and that's game over man.

The only problem is that then you have to replace paneling, but in a true space ship or space station that isn't intended to land, the paneling isn't quite as rough to replace as it would be if it had to survive reentry. So you could do makeshift paneling to last until you got the time to do proper repairs.

Edit: Also there are A LOT of problems potentially with automated weapons, there's a reason we don't use them in the real world. They simply don't have the discernment a human being has, and they certainly can't be designed to adapt to things like enemies suddenly coming from the ceiling above the rotation range of the turret and disabling it. I mean if they encounter resistance in one entry point they can always explode another.

Edit 2: And as far as the explosions moving the objects away from each other, you can solve that problem with tethers and having your own ship steer to counter that (or not if you don't care about moving yourself). NASA ships don't have grappling type tethers like that, but they aren't boarding hostile ships, it's certainly possible as we saw with that comet landing, and that was with lag, without human control.

VoxRationis
2015-12-11, 09:16 PM
According to the Marine Corps Urban warfare doctrine... You blow a hole in the side of it and board through that. Your folks are wearing space gear, so they don't mind the zero-g, and they can patch and seal the hole. This has the advantage of killing folks that aren't suited up, and it has the advantage of being in an unexpected direction, so you can't effectively prepare a defense, not against an enemy who can come from literally any direction, with probably very little warning.

The defense only has the advantage if you come from the direction they expect, otherwise ALL of the advantages are on the side of the offense (they're flanking, they have surprise, they can surround defensive positions, shock and awe). Hell if you don't mind blowing two holes in it, you can attack from two sides, and that's game over man.

The only problem is that then you have to replace paneling, but in a true space ship or space station that isn't intended to land, the paneling isn't quite as rough to replace as it would be if it had to survive reentry. So you could do makeshift paneling to last until you got the time to do proper repairs.

Wouldn't it be easier for a spaceship to notice the direction of attack than for the inhabitants of a city building to do the same?

AMFV
2015-12-11, 09:23 PM
Wouldn't it be easier for a spaceship to notice the direction of attack than for the inhabitants of a city building to do the same?

Nope, you can't always get through a particular wall, or the floor, or the ceiling. In space you can.

And also noticing it as it's happening isn't great, if you're in the room, then you explosively decompress into space, at which point you're not doing anybody any good. If you've equalized the pressure and you're suited up, it's still picking which of six possible directions they could be coming from, and they can come from more than one, and they can make a decoy attack to divert attention, and they can blast a hole in the ship, then just wait for you to die.

I mean frankly unless there's a strong need for expedience, boarding itself is more of a nuisance, just cut the air supply or open a few holes, then wait for them to asphyxiate. In most space boarding actions the offense has absolute advantages.

The situations where this changes would be if you aren't sure of all the hostiles, or if you need to protect some people, or if you're trying to rescue or capture. Terrorist type situations make things more complex here, as in real life. But otherwise, there are some pretty profound advantages for the offense in most cases.

Honestly, I'd rather just abandon ship than try to fight boarders if it came to that.

Trekkin
2015-12-11, 09:44 PM
In that case, the most sensible option for the safety of all parties may be ninja raver space mechanics. (Best read, I feel, with the cadence of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

Put simply, space is a sensor-friendly environment, so in order to do anything without the defenders knowing where you are (and therefore where to shoot), you need to overwhelm their capacity to pinpoint your boarding parties. This probably entails some combination of electromagnetic strobes and clamp-on speakers, ideally synchronized out of phase with your own sensing equipment/tools.

Once local space is sufficiently psychedelic that they can't track your ninja raver space mechanics, have them disassemble the ship; working in stages, isolate as much mass as possible and fling it out of the area as quickly as can be controllably maintained. Shunt the cooling lines and electrical power away so that the rest of the ship does not overheat. When they hit pressurized sections, have nets and soft bubble suits ready and take it one chamber at a time.

With luck, they'll still be pointing their guns at the roof when you pull the rug out from under them (since it is exponentially more difficult to guard everything in 3d space), and then the boarders can snatch their guns away and shove the almost certainly unconscious crew into an air bubble in the midst of the aforementioned space rave.

The basic plan is certainly amenable to as much hacking as you like.

Hopefully it's more narratively interesting than laser beams, at least.

AMFV
2015-12-11, 09:56 PM
In that case, the most sensible option for the safety of all parties may be ninja raver space mechanics. (Best read, I feel, with the cadence of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

Put simply, space is a sensor-friendly environment, so in order to do anything without the defenders knowing where you are, you need to overwhelm their capacity to pinpoint you. This probably entails some combination of electromagnetic strobes and clamp-on speakers, ideally synchronized out of phase with your own sensing equipment.

Once local space is sufficiently psychedelic that they can't track your ninja raver space mechanics, have them disassemble the ship; working in stages, isolate as much mass as possible and fling it out of the area as quickly as can be controllably maintained. Shunt the cooling lines and electrical power away so that the rest of the ship does not overheat. When they hit pressurized sections, have nets and soft bubble suits ready and take it one chamber at a time.

With luck, they'll still be pointing their guns at the roof when you pull the rug out from under them (since it is exponentially more difficult to guard everything in 3d space), and then the boarders can snatch their guns away and shove the almost certainly unconscious crew into an air bubble in the midst of the aforementioned space rave.

The basic plan is certainly amenable to as much hacking as you like.

Hopefully it's more narratively interesting than laser beams, at least.

I don't think that would work as effectively as you imagine. People are REALLY small, space is REALLY big. And space, unless it's quite deep, has pretty big ranges in temperature and what-not, a shift of some 30 degree C would not be noticeable in a space battle, particularly if the suits were sealed, and not allowing heat to escape. So you wouldn't really be in a good position to detect any boarders who were moving across.

Now you would know that you were going to be boarded, as they'd lock tethers to you, and disable your thrusters. But you wouldn't necessarily be able to: A.) Stand by the sensors, B.) Detect any and all boarding attempts, or C.) Recognize the time frame.

Like I said, there is no reason at all for the offense to keep the ship pressurized and aired up, in most scenarios. They depressurize it, and then they can move about more effectively than the people who are dying, they can depressurize the ship and just wait for the crew to die (which is easy enough).

If they need to board quickly, again, a space suit isn't going to be leaking gobs of heat into the environment to be detected, it should be retaining almost all of it. So infrared is no good... Additionally there will be other heat sources in a space battle radiating around, ergo space that's empty is great for sensors and remote sensing, space that's full of exploded crap, radiating heat, radiation, weapons, floating mines, exhaust trails, and the other results of battle... not such a great environment. Visual... again space is big, and now it's full of stuff near you, so not as good. Radio... well there's no reason for them to use radios on approach, they'd probably want to maintain strict radio silence, so that's a no go. And that cuts a lot of other things down. Also once they land on the ship they can move around to a different spot, and you won't be able to see them, so visual goes from mostly to completely worthless very rapidly.

You wouldn't want to use the Ninja Turtle strategy in a real space battle for the same reason that we don't always use real jammers. Jamming a sensor, means that you yourself can't use the same sensor, and as such you wouldn't want to jam your own sensors, particularly if you're involved in the rather dangerous act of tethering to another ship in mid-space battle.

Strigon
2015-12-11, 10:07 PM
The defense only has the advantage if you come from the direction they expect, otherwise ALL of the advantages are on the side of the offense (they're flanking, they have surprise, they can surround defensive positions, shock and awe). Hell if you don't mind blowing two holes in it, you can attack from two sides, and that's game over man.


That's not true at all; the defense still has advantages in terms of knowledge of the ship's layout, and all functions of the automatic systems. Based off the fact that you'd almost certainly have to board a vessel with a smaller vessel, they probably have numerical advantages too.

Depending on the strength of the doors, automated systems would be a huge help; open and close blast doors to funnel them to where you want them. If they want to go somewhere else, you can easily track their progress by which doors are suddenly inoperable, and all the time it takes to breach those blast doors is more time for you to plan and mount a defense.

Don't forget; these are warships - ships meant to survive both war and space, two of the most hostile environments known to man. You're not getting through their defenses in a hurry; not without heavy "siege" equipment weighing you down, as it were.

AMFV
2015-12-11, 10:16 PM
That's not true at all; the defense still has advantages in terms of knowledge of the ship's layout,

True, but the layout becomes ABSOLUTELY irrelevant if you can just move around the outside of the ship, and then cut into wherever you're going. Which is what I described.


and all functions of the automatic systems.

This is good. But they shouldn't be working if the offense has done it's job, meaning that it wouldn't really be that much of an advantage.


Based off the fact that you'd almost certainly have to board a vessel with a smaller vessel, they probably have numerical advantages too.

Wrong. You NEVER EVER assault anything without a significant numerical advantage, that would be really not a great idea. Remember I didn't talk about "bullet ships" or "boarding pods". I used tethers, and space walking to the ship, which wouldn't require a smaller vessel at all.



Depending on the strength of the doors, automated systems would be a huge help; open and close blast doors to funnel them to where you want them. If they want to go somewhere else, you can easily track their progress by which doors are suddenly inoperable, and all the time it takes to breach those blast doors is more time for you to plan and mount a defense.

You don't go through the doors. that was the whole point of my earlier post. You go through the walls through the side of the ship, through the ceilings the floors. No reason to go through doors, you blow a hole in whatever room you need to get to, and there's no way to reasonably prepare for an assault from potentially any direction or two of any directions, as I would probably execute it.



Don't forget; these are warships - ships meant to survive both war and space, two of the most hostile environments known to man. You're not getting through their defenses in a hurry; not without heavy "siege" equipment weighing you down, as it were.

Heavy siege equipment weighs nothing in space. You don't go through the ship to get to places, you move on the outside of the ship, so weight or equipment is almost a moot point, and then you drill/blow/cut into wherever you need to get to, no reason to even use the corridors in the ship at all, you'd be throwing away literally every advantage.

Trekkin
2015-12-11, 10:25 PM
I don't think that would work as effectively as you imagine. People are REALLY small, space is REALLY big. And space, unless it's quite deep, has pretty big ranges in temperature and what-not, a shift of some 30 degree C would not be noticeable in a space battle, particularly if the suits were sealed, and not allowing heat to escape. So you wouldn't really be in a good position to detect any boarders who were moving across.

You wouldn't want to use the Ninja Turtle strategy in a real space battle for the same reason that we don't always use real jammers. Jamming a sensor, means that you yourself can't use the same sensor, and as such you wouldn't want to jam your own sensors, particularly if you're involved in the rather dangerous act of tethering to another ship in mid-space battle.

People are indeed small, but boarders are definitionally very close to your sensors. If I have any optical capacity at all, I can just look for the big person-shaped not-starfield that has suddenly grown out of my hull, ideally with the same cruddy CCTV I use to check for random day-to-day damage.

As for heat...how are you not letting heat escape? You have to, otherwise your space suit cooks you. I suppose you can pre-chill a big brick of lithium or something and dump heat into that, but the mass-to-time ratio does not favor one fellow in a suit doing much before their suit has to go back to radiators (hot) or dumping hot heat sink (also hot). There's just too much heat incident from the sun, emitted by the occupant, and emitted by the machinery.

Also, I'm afraid you are neglecting sound. We normally don't think of sound in space, but that just means there's not much to interfere with the sound of boots and welders and prybars being conducted through the hull to the defenders. I can't think why warships would have their hulls acoustically isolated from their crew.

VoxRationis
2015-12-11, 10:27 PM
True, but the layout becomes ABSOLUTELY irrelevant if you can just move around the outside of the ship, and then cut into wherever you're going. Which is what I described.



This is good. But they shouldn't be working if the offense has done it's job, meaning that it wouldn't really be that much of an advantage.



Wrong. You NEVER EVER assault anything without a significant numerical advantage, that would be really not a great idea. Remember I didn't talk about "bullet ships" or "boarding pods". I used tethers, and space walking to the ship, which wouldn't require a smaller vessel at all.



You don't go through the doors. that was the whole point of my earlier post. You go through the walls through the side of the ship, through the ceilings the floors. No reason to go through doors, you blow a hole in whatever room you need to get to, and there's no way to reasonably prepare for an assault from potentially any direction or two of any directions, as I would probably execute it.



Heavy siege equipment weighs nothing in space. You don't go through the ship to get to places, you move on the outside of the ship, so weight or equipment is almost a moot point, and then you drill/blow/cut into wherever you need to get to, no reason to even use the corridors in the ship at all, you'd be throwing away literally every advantage.

What if the ship has extensive interior spaces which can't be reached from the outside directly? Our current space vessels, by virtue of their small size, aren't built like that, but a lot of sci-fi examples are (Imperial Star Destroyers, Normandy SR2, Enterprise, large warships from Foundation, etc.). I'm not sure how much in the way of breaching explosives your boarding crews are carrying, but those will probably be depleted after a few uses, and once you're using cutting equipment, your progress becomes slower and your assault team becomes vulnerable to flanking. Cutting your way through several layers of bulkheads and corridors to get to an interior space is essentially sapping, and sapping is easy to detect and easy to outmaneuver. Sure, if you have enough of a numerical advantage that you can come in from every side against the defense at once, such that each front of the defender is beset by multiple angles, it'll work, but "it'll work if we have indefinitely more men than the other guy" can be said for most strategies.

Strigon
2015-12-11, 10:30 PM
True, but the layout becomes ABSOLUTELY irrelevant if you can just move around the outside of the ship, and then cut into wherever you're going. Which is what I described.



This is good. But they shouldn't be working if the offense has done it's job, meaning that it wouldn't really be that much of an advantage.



Wrong. You NEVER EVER assault anything without a significant numerical advantage, that would be really not a great idea. Remember I didn't talk about "bullet ships" or "boarding pods". I used tethers, and space walking to the ship, which wouldn't require a smaller vessel at all.



You don't go through the doors. that was the whole point of my earlier post. You go through the walls through the side of the ship, through the ceilings the floors. No reason to go through doors, you blow a hole in whatever room you need to get to, and there's no way to reasonably prepare for an assault from potentially any direction or two of any directions, as I would probably execute it.



Heavy siege equipment weighs nothing in space. You don't go through the ship to get to places, you move on the outside of the ship, so weight or equipment is almost a moot point, and then you drill/blow/cut into wherever you need to get to, no reason to even use the corridors in the ship at all, you'd be throwing away literally every advantage.

You can't always get where you need to go directly from the outside; ships are a 3d network of rooms and tunnels. You'd have to do an awful lot of cutting to get where you want to go, and that only gets worse if you don't know exactly where on the ship that is. You'd waste an awful lot of time by cutting through walls and the like - long enough to lose your objective. If that objective is data, they'd have fried the computers; if it's an experimental engine, they'd have sabotaged it. You can't afford to just go cutting through the ship until you stumble upon something important.

I'm curious as to how you think the defenses would be down? It would be idiotic to have ship systems controlled by a computer that can be hacked from the outside, so unless you're shutting the whole ship down, they still have defenses - and if you're shutting the whole ship down, you've already won and can simply take it with you to an allied planet, negating the need for boarding altogether.

Finally, simply because they don't weigh anything doesn't mean they become convenient to carry. There's still an awful lot of mass and inertia there; depending on the tool, it might be even worse in zero-G, since the recoil would actually make its users start floating away - and it's hard to get good leverage without gravity pulling you down. Try to brace against the floor so you can push, and you're flying toward the ceiling. Lifting heavy things doesn't become easier in space; it becomes harder. It's not just about being strong any more, it's about working around the physics of a world completely unnatural to your body.

AMFV
2015-12-11, 10:34 PM
People are indeed small, but boarders are definitionally very close to your sensors. If I have any optical capacity at all, I can just look for the big person-shaped not-starfield that has suddenly grown out of my hull, ideally with the same cruddy CCTV I use to check for random day-to-day damage.

It's too much area to reasonably cover though, in terms of possibly having multiple vectors of approach and even still knowing that they're someplace or that they're moving around isn't necessarily going to help. If your CC cameras are outside, they can be disabled. Once that happens, then it's easy enough for them to move about. Also you have to remember that there is A LOT going on in terms of optical stuff, you aren't looking at a starfield, you're looking at a warzone, which will be full of debris and crap, this means that your optical sensors won't be nearly as useful as they would be otherwise.



As for heat...how are you not letting heat escape? You have to, otherwise your space suit cooks you. I suppose you can pre-chill a big brick of lithium or something and dump heat into that, but the mass-to-time ratio does not favor one fellow in a suit doing much before their suit has to go back to radiators (hot) or dumping hot heat sink (also hot). There's just too much heat incident from the sun, emitted by the occupant, and emitted by the machinery.

The heat incident from the sun would make the small amount of heat emission from an insulated suit, pretty irrelevant, yes?

You don't want to retain all the heat, but you don't just vent all of it either, since then the occupant would, y'know, freeze to death. The suit has the occupant and their means of transit, depending on said means it may or may not generate a lot of heat. And again, would negligible next to radiant he



Also, I'm afraid you are neglecting sound. We normally don't think of sound in space, but that just means there's not much to interfere with the sound of boots and welders and prybars being conducted through the hull to the defenders. I can't think why warships would have their hulls acoustically isolated from their crew.

Welders and prybars are less than ideal. Shape charges would be ideal, and placing those doesn't make a great deal of noise, particularly if you've already thought of that problem. No reason to make contact with the hull otherwise (strong reasons not too, because the hull might be booby-trapped). You just set your shape charges... "plunk... BOOOM" isn't much of a warning than "... BOOOOM", so it's still that same element of shock and surprise.


You can't always get where you need to go directly from the outside; ships are a 3d network of rooms and tunnels. You'd have to do an awful lot of cutting to get where you want to go, and that only gets worse if you don't know exactly where on the ship that is. You'd waste an awful lot of time by cutting through walls and the like - long enough to lose your objective. If that objective is data, they'd have fried the computers; if it's an experimental engine, they'd have sabotaged it. You can't afford to just go cutting through the ship until you stumble upon something important.

If my objective is data, I cut the ship open, suck the air out, and they die. If my objective is the engine, I cut the hull open wait and they die...

There is no chance of me getting to any of that stuff before they thermite it in any real boarding scenario, so it's kind of a moot point. And you blow through the walls, you don't cut through the walls. Shape charges, not saws, not wasting too much time there, to be honest. Particularly if civilian casualties aren't a thing. (Which is why we didn't do that all the time in the Iraq.)



I'm curious as to how you think the defenses would be down? It would be idiotic to have ship systems controlled by a computer that can be hacked from the outside, so unless you're shutting the whole ship down, they still have defenses - and if you're shutting the whole ship down, you've already won and can simply take it with you to an allied planet, negating the need for boarding altogether.
'
Because cutting the power is literally the FIRST thing an offensive force would do, one way or the other.



Finally, simply because they don't weigh anything doesn't mean they become convenient to carry. There's still an awful lot of mass and inertia there; depending on the tool, it might be even worse in zero-G, since the recoil would actually make its users start floating away - and it's hard to get good leverage without gravity pulling you down. Try to brace against the floor so you can push, and you're flying toward the ceiling. Lifting heavy things doesn't become easier in space; it becomes harder. It's not just about being strong any more, it's about working around the physics of a world completely unnatural to your body.

You don't use cannons. You use explosives, and you aren't in contact with them when they get detonated. So no recoil, no issues.

CharonsHelper
2015-12-11, 10:34 PM
Wrong. You NEVER EVER assault anything without a significant numerical advantage, that would be really not a great idea. Remember I didn't talk about "bullet ships" or "boarding pods". I used tethers, and space walking to the ship, which wouldn't require a smaller vessel at all.

It depends what sort of personal weapons systems you have. You don't need a numerical advantage if you're in armored exo-suits and most of the defenders are sailors who might not even know that the assault is coming. With aliens - it could be that one side inherently sucks in personal combat relative to the other - so that side would always be at a disadvantage even with numbers. etc.

CharonsHelper
2015-12-11, 10:40 PM
Of note - lets not argue about what sci-fi tech can or can't do. It's silliness. It should just be a matter of what the creator of the world could reasonably have the tech be.

Will boarding definitely be an optimal tactic in the future? No

Will boarding definitely be a horrible tactic in the future? No

It depends entirely upon the tech involved and the potential counters to them.

Is it possible to create a sci-fi world in which boarding is a viable tactic based upon that world's tech? I think the answer is a very solid yes, though I don't think that it would be true in many 'default' sci-fi worlds.

AMFV
2015-12-11, 10:40 PM
It depends what sort of personal weapons systems you have. You don't need a numerical advantage if you're in armored exo-suits and most of the defenders are sailors who might not even know that the assault is coming. With aliens - it could be that one side inherently sucks in personal combat relative to the other - so that side would always be at a disadvantage even with numbers. etc.

That's true, I was assuming equal advantages, and both parties involved being military. My statement also comes from modern day military doctrine, which doesn't factor in exosuits.

Edit:

Of note - lets not argue about what sci-fi tech can or can't do. It's silliness. It should just be a matter of what the creator of the world could reasonably have the tech be.

It's sci fi, we can extrapolate. Also we're not arguing technology, but rather tactics. All of my arguments were based around things we can do NOW, which we should then be even better at.



Will boarding definitely be an optimal tactic in the future? No

Will boarding definitely be a horrible tactic in the future? No

It depends entirely upon the tech involved and the potential counters to them.

Is it possible to create a sci-fi world in which boarding is a viable tactic based upon that world's tech? I think the answer is a very solid yes, though I don't think that it would be true in many 'default' sci-fi worlds.

I think you're wrong for the reasons I extensively outlined, which are true in most default sci-fi rules. The issue is that few science fiction authors have the experience with that sort of thing to know how it would go.

Edit: Again, as long as ships are sacks of air that can be punctured, the advantage is always with the boarder.

Trekkin
2015-12-11, 10:47 PM
Of note - lets not argue about what sci-fi tech can or can't do. It's silliness. It should just be a matter of what the creator of the world could reasonably have the tech be.

Will boarding definitely be an optimal tactic in the future? No

Will boarding definitely be a horrible tactic in the future? No

It depends entirely upon the tech involved and the potential counters to them.

Is it possible to create a sci-fi world in which boarding is a viable tactic based upon that world's tech? I think the answer is a very solid yes, though I don't think that it would be true in many 'default' sci-fi worlds.

This is a good point, and I think we can go a bit further:

If we adjust the science and technology of the world to enable forcible boarding as a viable tactic, what else changes in consequence, assuming we are being internally consistent?

AMFV
2015-12-11, 10:51 PM
This is a good point, and I think we can go a bit further:

If we adjust the science and technology of the world to enable forcible boarding as a viable tactic, what else changes in consequence, assuming we are being internally consistent?

Boarding is presently a viable tactic. You'd need to alter technology to make it NOT so. You would need rooms that could automatically hermetically seal themselves, you'd need ways to prevent people from planting shape charges on even disabled ships. You'd need life support that could not be expended or destroyed from outside or disrupted.

Here is the main difference. If boarding is a viable tactic, then there's going to be more prisoners and more rapid surrendering, because they won't want the air vented out of their ship. So they'd destroy whatever equipment they could and surrender (or alternatively scuttle the ship).

If boarding is not viable, then they'd probably starve to death, since disabled ships would just be left floating, and you couldn't take the risk to get over there.

CharonsHelper
2015-12-11, 11:15 PM
Boarding is presently a viable tactic. You'd need to alter technology to make it NOT so. You would need rooms that could automatically hermetically seal themselves, you'd need ways to prevent people from planting shape charges on even disabled ships. You'd need life support that could not be expended or destroyed from outside or disrupted.

Here is the main difference. If boarding is a viable tactic, then there's going to be more prisoners and more rapid surrendering, because they won't want the air vented out of their ship. So they'd destroy whatever equipment they could and surrender (or alternatively scuttle the ship).

If boarding is not viable, then they'd probably starve to death, since disabled ships would just be left floating, and you couldn't take the risk to get over there.

Much depends upon HOW viable of a tactic it is. Your scenarios seem to assume that the space battle is already mostly won - and the boarding is just a sort of 'finish them off' instead of blowing it up entirely. (How I'm reading your posts. Let me know if I'm totally off base.) That seems extremely likely in most settings.

Is it a viable primary tactic instead of shooting up the ship and pinning it down? *shrug* Lots of variables.

Trekkin
2015-12-11, 11:22 PM
Boarding is presently a viable tactic. You'd need to alter technology to make it NOT so. You would need rooms that could automatically hermetically seal themselves, you'd need ways to prevent people from planting shape charges on even disabled ships. You'd need life support that could not be expended or destroyed from outside or disrupted.

Here is the main difference. If boarding is a viable tactic, then there's going to be more prisoners and more rapid surrendering, because they won't want the air vented out of their ship. So they'd destroy whatever equipment they could and surrender (or alternatively scuttle the ship).

If boarding is not viable, then they'd probably starve to death, since disabled ships would just be left floating, and you couldn't take the risk to get over there.

We may be assuming different things of present technology.

When I say "presently", I'm talking about our ability to see a radio signal less than a kilowatt being emitted by a moving target ten billion kilometers away and calculate the trajectory required to intercept it with somewhat less computing power than I am currently using to post this message -- and to continue doing that in real time as it changes course. We're doing that right now with the Voyager probes. Rocket engines are not just more energetic, they are many orders of magnitude more energetic and proportionally easier to detect. Every time a spaceship changes its orbit, it emits more than enough energy to get our attention -- and knowing nothing more than its orbit at the present time, we can calculate its orbit at any future time to more than sufficient precision to hit it, assuming, well, that we can aim rockets.

Yes, it takes time to aquire the signal inversely proportional to its strength, but a 300 K life support system puts out infrared against a 4 K background. Sure there's more noise in war, but ultimately my ability to track hot things exceeds those things ability to hide -- and unlike any other medium, accelerating through space must involve the expenditure of energy, which is visible.

So let us take these present shaped charges and assume that we gain some advantage by exploding them in space rather than propelling their casings into our target.

If we want to use them for boarding, we have to hand them to a boarder, accelerate boarder and shaped charge to cruising speed, decelerate them, have the boarder put the charge where we want, then eventually repeat the trip in reverse, less the shaped charge. All of the propellant required to do this must be in the boarder's possession when they leave our ship.

Alternatively, we can duct-tape the shaped charge to a can of rocket fuel, accelerate it, and put it in the same space with much less mass and energy expended. What's more, we actually gain destructive capacity, because the energy we put into moving the charge there does not go away. Now, for a cost of one acceleration rather than four, we have a shaped charge with energy equal to 1/2 mv2 + chemical.

That is why I am saying boarding is presently not viable. Boarders right next to a target can be immensely effective, but if I'm looking to actually disable a ship and take it over at my leisure, I can do so much more efficiently with missiles. Or lasers, if you want to try dodging.

Of course, all this goes out the window with physics, thus my other suggestion as per Amaril's stipulation that dogfighting is possible in the physics posited for the original question.

AMFV
2015-12-11, 11:22 PM
Much depends upon HOW viable of a tactic it is. Your scenarios seem to assume that the space battle is already mostly won - and the boarding is just a sort of 'finish them off' instead of blowing it up entirely. (How I'm reading your posts. Let me know if I'm totally off base.) That seems extremely likely in most settings.

You are correct. I wouldn't view boarding as a viable tactic in-combat in almost any scenario, I mean you're trading advantages for disadvantages. Well let's think that though a bit...

If you had really small but potent explosives and could get one guy inside the ship, then he could do a lot more damage (interior would be less protected). So that's a case where in-combat boarding might be effective.

Hostage rescue, but I'd already stated that was a fringe case.

Transporter technology would make in combat boarding viable.

I think robots were already mentioned, if you have weapons that could launch robots to do boarding, then it certainly wouldn't hurt.



Is it a viable primary tactic instead of shooting up the ship and pinning it down? *shrug* Lots of variables.

Nope. Not without huge modifications to the technology.

And to be fair we'd need to know the exact scenario. Most of mine deal with the kind of scenario where boarding with our current tech, would be viable (or with slightly futuristic), and that's post-disabled ship, although not necessarily post-battle, depending on why exactly you're boarding it, instead of blowing it up.

AMFV
2015-12-11, 11:31 PM
We may be assuming different things of present technology.

When I say "presently", I'm talking about our ability to see a radio signal less than a kilowatt being emitted by a moving target ten billion kilometers away and calculate the trajectory required to intercept it with somewhat less computing power than I am currently expending to post this message -- and to continue doing that in real time as it changes course. We're doing that right now with the Voyager probes. Rocket engines are not just more energetic, they are many orders of magnitude more energetic and proportionally easier to detect. Every time a spaceship changes its orbit, it emits more than enough energy to get our attention -- and knowing nothing more than its orbit at the present time, we can calculate its orbit at any future time to more than sufficient precision to hit it, assuming, well, that we can aim rockets.

Yes, it takes time to aquire the signal inversely proportional to its strength, but a 300 K life support system puts out infrared against a 4 K background. Sure there's more noise in war, but ultimately my ability to track hot things exceeds those things ability to hide -- and unlike any other medium, accelerating through space must involve the expenditure of energy, which is visible.

Your ability to track small hot things moving quickly doesn't exceed their ability to approach more quickly than you can find them though. Nor does it exceed their ability to do things to avoid that. launching drones that give off heat but don't actually reveal the boarding site for example. That's quite easy to do.

Also we're watching the spaceships in orbit, pretty constantly, when we're not watching things they tend to go unnoticed. I actually worked in signalsy stuff in the miltary, so I've got some background on signals and finding things, it's not a fast process, and if you only have your one receiver pinpointing a location is impossible, or very nearly. With signals you pinpoint location using triangulation, you can't do that with only one receiver. And even if you have two, there's no guarantee it'll be fast enough, you just don't have the ability to pinpoint them till they're right on top of you.

So you can't pinpoint them, even if you could separate the signal from the vast amounts of external noise. Which as somebody who has worked in that field, even with modern noise and one side being technologically not advanced, is a HUGE pain. So with two hyper advanced sides, it gets worser.



So let us take these present shaped charges and assume that we gain some advantage by exploding them in space rather than propelling their casings into our target.

If we want to use them for boarding, we have to hand them to a boarder, accelerate boarder and shaped charge to cruising speed, decelerate them, have the boarder put the charge where we want, then eventually repeat the trip in reverse, less the shaped charge. All of the propellant required to do this must be in the boarder's possession when they leave our ship.

Not exactly. You hand them to the boarder, who puts them down, then they go off. The boarder isn't in contact with the ship, and the charge (being a shape charge) goes in one direction. So the ship may move, but that's what the tethers are for, and the boarding party may have to move to compensate.

The whole point of the charge is to allow the boarders entry without completely wrecking the ship. It is after all easier to repair a wall, than it is to repair a computer or a complex internal system.



Alternatively, we can duct-tape the shaped charge to a can of rocket fuel, accelerate it, and put it in the same space with much less mass and energy expended. What's more, we actually gain destructive capacity, because the energy we put into moving the charge there does not go away. Now, for a cost of one acceleration rather than four, we have a shaped charge with energy equal to 1/2 mv + chemical.

That is why I am saying boarding is presently not viable. Boarders right next to a target can be immensely effective, but if I'm looking to actually disable a ship and take it over at my leisure, I can do so much more efficiently with missiles. Or lasers, if you want to try dodging.

Well there are reasons you'd want to board, and not simply blow the ship. And you can't get shape charges on something without getting close to it. Missiles don't work like that, or for that purpose. Shape charges also don't work like that, or at least not presently. The thing is that a shape charge is controlled, your missile isn't, you use the shape charge when you're trying to not just level whatever it is, your missile would gain destructive capability, and if that's what you want, boarding isn't a consideration in the first place.

CharonsHelper
2015-12-11, 11:37 PM
Nope. Not without huge modifications to the technology.

Aren't 'huge modifications to the technology' kind of inherent to sci-fi space battles?

I agree that it wouldn't be the case simply improving current tech. But technology comes out of left field all the freakin' time - it's certainly possible, and if someone wants to create their world that way, it wouldn't be hard to make it reasonable.

VoxRationis
2015-12-11, 11:38 PM
Why is everyone focusing on letting out the air? It won't work! It will be the very first situation a space-capable warship is built to handle. Crew will get into space suits well before combat begins. Most rooms will be evacuated. Killing the enemy by venting their atmosphere will work only for the Space Shuttle—not for a space warship.

AMFV
2015-12-11, 11:43 PM
Aren't 'huge modifications to the technology' kind of inherent to sci-fi space battles?

I agree that it wouldn't be the case simply improving current tech. But technology comes out of left field all the freakin' time - it's certainly possible, and if someone wants to create their world that way, it wouldn't be hard to make it reasonable.

Well Tech out of left field makes the whole thing an exercise in futility. The OP asked how it would work, so that would involve extrapolating from current tech. Or hypothesizing, saying "it could be anything" basically makes the whole thing kind of worthless.

Edit: And I did account for vast adjustments in technology, or at least by stating that that would be the sort of factor one would have to account for, or that it would change things significantly. But most hard SF doesn't just guess about tech, they assume it proceeds logically.


Why is everyone focusing on letting out the air? It won't work! It will be the very first situation a space-capable warship is built to handle. Crew will get into space suits well before combat begins. Most rooms will be evacuated. Killing the enemy by venting their atmosphere will work only for the Space Shuttle—not for a space warship.

How much air do you have in your space suit? An hour? two? Three? Doesn't matter... I can wait as long as I like, and then you're just as dead, except with a bit of boredom before it. You let the air out, so that way they have no options, die, get rescued, or surrender. Every time they fix that, you blow another hole in it. Until they die, easy peasy, with no loss of life on your side. That's a net gain.

Now if expedience is a factor, that changes things, but I'd already mentioned that.

Also even if you have some kind of infinite life support, then your options are surrender or die of thirst (after they disable your engines before leaving) so same difference in the end.

Trekkin
2015-12-11, 11:49 PM
Aren't 'huge modifications to the technology' kind of inherent to sci-fi space battles?

I agree that it wouldn't be the case simply improving current tech. But technology comes out of left field all the freakin' time - it's certainly possible, and if someone wants to create their world that way, it wouldn't be hard to make it reasonable.

Or to make it internally consistent, which is what I suppose I've been harping on. I can't help but think we'd make more headway if we figured out how we're getting close enough, and slow enough, quickly enough, to the target to make the whole thing work, since that will propagate through the whole system of moving matter through a microgravity vacuum.

AMFV
2015-12-11, 11:53 PM
Or to make it internally consistent, which is what I suppose I've been harping on. I can't help but think we'd make more headway if we figured out how we're getting close enough, and slow enough, quickly enough, to the target to make the whole thing work, since that will propagate through the whole system of moving matter through a microgravity vacuum.

Well the question is really "what are your objectives". If we know what we hope to accomplish by boarding, then we can better speculate on the tech involved. If you want to capture the ship whole, that's pretty difficult. Crewmembers alive is more difficult. Cargo is easier. The question is why would you board a ship? What are we hoping to accomplish?

I've been acting under the assumption that the most common goal is to retain the ship for resources after the battle. So it would be already disabled, and time would not be a substantive factor. But other goals change all of the variables pretty drastically in some cases.

Trekkin
2015-12-11, 11:59 PM
Well the question is really "what are your objectives". If we know what we hope to accomplish by boarding, then we can better speculate on the tech involved. If you want to capture the ship whole, that's pretty difficult. Crewmembers alive is more difficult. Cargo is easier. The question is why would you board a ship? What are we hoping to accomplish?

I've been acting under the assumption that the most common goal is to retain the ship for resources after the battle. So it would be already disabled, and time would not be a substantive factor. But other goals change all of the variables pretty drastically in some cases.

Would it be fair to say that, if we hit upon a system that keeps the crew alive, we have also hit upon a system for capturing cargo and ships? More so at least than is true for the other two?

If so, we may want to take that as our goal for the sake of argument.

I'm also wondering if time is ever not a factor. Can we ever assume that a disabled ship is not still deteriorating?

AMFV
2015-12-12, 12:05 AM
Would it be fair to say that, if we hit upon a system that keeps the crew alive, we have also hit upon a system for capturing cargo and ships? More so at least than is true for the other two?

If so, we may want to take that as our goal for the sake of argument.

Keeping the crew alive is very tricky, I would argue that still one would want to cut a hole in the ship, then wait for them to surrender, which should be fairly quick. Otherwise it's impossible.

The thing is that the other goals aren't necessarily more difficult, but they would require vastly different means to accomplish.



I'm also wondering if time is ever not a factor. Can we ever assume that a disabled ship is not still deteriorating?

It shouldn't be, and if it is deteriorating that fast, then I'd just be wasting men sending them over there. Since they would die when whatever was going to go wrong, went wrong. As far as that goes, you definitely would have 10 or so hours, unless you really had to move on, and if ten hours wasn't worth the wait, then you'd blow the ship and leave. If it was worth waiting you can always wait.

There are certainly situations where time is a greater factor, but there are cases where waiting won't kill you. It just depends on what is tactically and strategically appropriate at that point. Endangering your own ship to capture a damaged one, isn't ever going to be a good move. That's why you don't attack without superior numbers, better to just blow the other ship and leave with one ship, than to wind up with no ships.

Trekkin
2015-12-12, 12:34 AM
It shouldn't be, and if it is deteriorating that fast, then I'd just be wasting men sending them over there. Since they would die when whatever was going to go wrong, went wrong. As far as that goes, you definitely would have 10 or so hours, unless you really had to move on, and if ten hours wasn't worth the wait, then you'd blow the ship and leave. If it was worth waiting you can always wait.

There are certainly situations where time is a greater factor, but there are cases where waiting won't kill you. It just depends on what is tactically and strategically appropriate at that point. Endangering your own ship to capture a damaged one, isn't ever going to be a good move. That's why you don't attack without superior numbers, better to just blow the other ship and leave with one ship, than to wind up with no ships.

Wait, what are you assuming is the separation distance between your ship and your target?

AMFV
2015-12-12, 12:50 AM
Wait, what are you assuming is the separation distance between your ship and your target?

Close enough you can lock tethers to it to hold it still enough (relative to you) to allow boarders to cross over. But if my crew winds up dead, then I don't have a ship. Also if I lose my entire ships' complement of Marines, for a blown ship, that's a bad trade too. As far as safe distance goes, it's not really possible to assess that without more knowledge.

Suffice it to say that if the ship is going to blow in the near future, it probably isn't salvageable in any case, and that also makes waiting not only worthwhile but advantageous.

CharonsHelper
2015-12-12, 01:30 AM
Well Tech out of left field makes the whole thing an exercise in futility. The OP asked how it would work, so that would involve extrapolating from current tech. Or hypothesizing, saying "it could be anything" basically makes the whole thing kind of worthless.

Actually - the OP said - "I'd like to hear any possible suggestions or existing examples, since I find the idea really cool and I'd like to understand it better.". So - he was asking how it might be possible, not how it 'would'. (Which is pure guesswork.)


Edit: And I did account for vast adjustments in technology, or at least by stating that that would be the sort of factor one would have to account for, or that it would change things significantly. But most hard SF doesn't just guess about tech, they assume it proceeds logically.

Who gets to define 'proceeds logically'? I can take pretty much any point in history more than a couple decades back and - based upon that tech - use it to guess at future tech... and I'd always be wrong.

Heck - just look at what 1950's America thought the future would be like. Where are the flying cars!? Why isn't everything chrome!? What in the heck are those tiny screens in your pocket!?

As to warfare - do you think that anyone from the 13th century could have conceived of tanks? Missiles? Jets?

Whether hard sci-fi or future fantasy - once you get more than a couple of decades into the future it's all guesswork. Hard sci-fi mostly just means that you need internal consistency and it has to generally make sense. (And it's really more of a spectrum than everything being entirely one or the other - and exactly where along that spectrum specific things are is rather subjective.)

Strigon
2015-12-12, 10:24 AM
If my objective is data, I cut the ship open, suck the air out, and they die. If my objective is the engine, I cut the hull open wait and they die...

Any warship worth fielding would have a defense in the event of a hull breach; most likely automated bulkheads closing long before the air gets thin enough to do serious damage. It would take a long, long time to vent out the ship enough to kill everyone on board - much less time than it would take for the crew to figure out what's happening and equip themselves accordingly.



And you blow through the walls, you don't cut through the walls. Shape charges, not saws, not wasting too much time there, to be honest. Particularly if civilian casualties aren't a thing. (Which is why we didn't do that all the time in the Iraq.)

You'd have to carry quite a lot of shaped charges, unless you knew the exact layout of the ship. And even if you did, it takes time to set up a shaped charge, clear and blow it, clear the surrounding area and set up another one 5 times over - much less time than it takes to figure out "Oh, they're making a beeline for main engineering; prepare our defenses there."



Because cutting the power is literally the FIRST thing an offensive force would do, one way or the other.

And that's easy to do when it's a building running on an external power supply. But ships can't and don't do that. Imagine trying to shut down the power on a modern aircraft carrier before you got inside it - that's roughly how hard what you're proposing is.
Power generation would probably be one of the most hardened sections of the ship; quite frankly, I'm having trouble even imagining a scenario where you'd have enough explosives to pierce those walls but also wouldn't have the resources to do something more efficient.



You don't use cannons. You use explosives, and you aren't in contact with them when they get detonated. So no recoil, no issues.

Yes, issues. Issues primarily with mass; breaching a ship's hull is one thing, but busting through floor after floor and wall after wall is another. It still requires lots of energy to move around and stop lots of mass in space. You'd probably need more explosives than you think, anyway, because it wouldn't be [room - wall - room], it would be [room - wall - systems - wall - room], effectively doubling either the number of explosives, or more than doubling the mass of each explosive.
But that's not all; there are many issues with the tactics presented here. First off, the way you're proposing leaves holes all behind you; holes which could easily lead to a vacuum. Which means you need to be equipped in gear meant to survive that; not a big problem, but a problem nonetheless. Secondly, as mentioned before, blowing through a ship would take time. Time enough for the defending forces to circle around and toss a grenade down the holes your leaving, mount a surprise attack from the rear, or any number of of tactics useful when your opponents are moving slowly and making their position obvious.

You seem to be under the assumption that tactics which worked before will magically still work within a new technological setting, when this is really not the case at all. Those tactics work well for storming buildings here on Earth, but spaceships wouldn't - and shouldn't - be built like buildings here. Trying to apply old tactics to new settings is one of the reasons WW1 was such a disaster.

BlacKnight
2015-12-12, 01:21 PM
Boarding actions worked until the XIX century because the ships firepower wasn't enough to destroy a near enemy ship in seconds. So it was possible to board a ship in the middle of a battle.

If you want spaceship boardings to be common, you need starships able to withstand impacts at hundreds of k/s and proximity nukes. But you also need a way for you men to board the enemy ship !
Boarding spaceships is like boarding an aircraft or a submarine. It's hard to come near, but once you are near you can destroy them easily.

Amaril
2015-12-12, 03:41 PM
Boarding actions worked until the XIX century because the ships firepower wasn't enough to destroy a near enemy ship in seconds. So it was possible to board a ship in the middle of a battle.

If you want spaceship boardings to be common, you need starships able to withstand impacts at hundreds of k/s and proximity nukes. But you also need a way for you men to board the enemy ship !
Boarding spaceships is like boarding an aircraft or a submarine. It's hard to come near, but once you are near you can destroy them easily.

Okay, well, this seems to fit with the kind of sci-fi I'm thinking of, where it seems like most spacecraft can survive prolonged attack.

Here's a thought: rather than try and make our own guesses at possible justifications for boarding tactics, who can provide examples of how existing sci-fi settings have made it make sense? Again, I want to reinforce that I don't care about realism, just verisimilitude, so fictional examples that don't completely shatter suspension of disbelief are fine by me.

VoxRationis
2015-12-12, 04:33 PM
Okay, well, this seems to fit with the kind of sci-fi I'm thinking of, where it seems like most spacecraft can survive prolonged attack.

Here's a thought: rather than try and make our own guesses at possible justifications for boarding tactics, who can provide examples of how existing sci-fi settings have made it make sense? Again, I want to reinforce that I don't care about realism, just verisimilitude, so fictional examples that don't completely shatter suspension of disbelief are fine by me.

Typically they made it make sense with crappy weapon ranges (Star Wars springs to mind).

Cluedrew
2015-12-12, 05:30 PM
Really good shielding is another option. Kinetic Absorption Shielding could reduce a projectile to a dead stop. Refraction Shielding stops lasers. That basically leaves you with the option walking up, cutting a hole in the hull and punching the other guy out.

We have come in a full circle.

CharonsHelper
2015-12-12, 06:49 PM
Okay, well, this seems to fit with the kind of sci-fi I'm thinking of, where it seems like most spacecraft can survive prolonged attack.

Here's a thought: rather than try and make our own guesses at possible justifications for boarding tactics, who can provide examples of how existing sci-fi settings have made it make sense? Again, I want to reinforce that I don't care about realism, just verisimilitude, so fictional examples that don't completely shatter suspension of disbelief are fine by me.

Yes - as VoxRationis said above - assuming that the tech is viable to board with relative ease - it's all about range of weapons vs. speed/durability of ships. If the ships can consistently close to boarding range without being destroyed - then it becomes a viable tactic. (As an extreme example not with ships - in Dune melee was the way to go 98% of the time because the shields were so effective vs. anything traveling very fast. Even in melee the killing blows had to be slower.)

Perhaps in some worlds only fast & maneuverable ships which have a high chance of dodging most incoming fire can use boarding actions. Perhaps it's only effective vs. ships which you've already taken out the bulk of their weapon systems. Traction beams make it easier. Perhaps vs a larger ship it just works like a tether so that they can't get away without blowing you up first.

The only boarding action I remember from Star Wars was at the very beginning of IV - and that ship was totally and utterly outclassed. Darth could have blown it away with ease - so no in-battle advantage.

Trekkin
2015-12-12, 09:50 PM
Something like the shields in Dune would work nicely. If you can impose a maximum velocity on anything approaching your ship, boarding parties become both more feasible and more necessary.

Amon Winterfall
2015-12-13, 02:12 PM
First of all, you make the call.

Boarding a ship versus disabling or depressurizing it is a high risk choice, and frankly sounds like something like Law Enforcement trying to prevent a massacre of hostages or trying to prevent harm to a very expensive McGuffin. It doesn't seem too extraordinary, either, that more mundane situations, like DUI in Space--might be addressed by simply trying to subdue the pilot instead of making the call that lethal force is approved.

So let's think police instead of military. Military Forces would view capturing an enemy ship in a very different light than the Police trying to use a proportionate response to a petty crime.

If a Spaceship is running away or recklessly flying around, disabling the engines sounds in order. One creative idea might be to match the speed of the other ship, then snare it with a cable. There is some talk of being able to hack a car to stop it today; it might be possible to hack a spaceship to shut down the engines and unlock the docking bay.

The decision to use lethal force would probably be close to the same point as deciding to beat the hell out of the other ship, though things like a hostage crisis probably shouldn't end in blowing everything up. I would actually see Police weapons as effective but survivable with the intention of persuading their quarry to surrender instead of dying. Chemical Rockets, Lasers and Adapted Machine Guns might be fair game; nuclear weapons probably not.

Ultimately, the whole concept works on buy-in. The Police don't want to kill everyone; the Criminals don't want to die and aren't necessarily willing to turn everything into a Bonnie and Clyde ending. If that holds up, boarding and dangerous situations will happen--and in particular, they're going to be situations where the Police manage to board but the Criminals are a bit less persuaded than they'd have hoped.

I could see this sort of situation being fairly common in the age of common space travel.

Trekkin
2015-12-13, 03:13 PM
Chemical Rockets, Lasers and Adapted Machine Guns might be fair game; nuclear weapons probably not..

Is there a way to make them less likely to penetrate walls and the presumably important devices behind them? Depending on the layout of the ship, bullets might be more dangerous than either side would like.

Telwar
2015-12-13, 03:33 PM
I know it's a thing that features in plenty of stories, so I'm probably just not familiar enough with those to have a good idea of how it can work. I'd like to hear any possible suggestions or existing examples, since I find the idea really cool and I'd like to understand it better.

As has been mentioned, it requires some buy-in. If your primary method of interstellar warfare is flinging star systems at each other, probably not. But there are some useful fictional examples.

William Keith's Ian Douglas' Space Marine series (starting with Semper Mars) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heritage_Trilogy) features a lot of boarding actions, to try to capture ships, rescue hostages, or obtain information about the enemy, particularly in the later trilogies where the overall Big Bads show up and the humans have some advanced tech (like Alcubierre drives etc) so their ships don't fall apart on one hit; notably, the ships in the first trilogy are *incredibly* fragile, being relatively near-future tech. Boarding actions are assumed to have a relatively high casualty rate, and so often the soldiers are sent in a swarm of stealthy one-man vehicles (described as looking very much like garbage cans at some points) to try to present as much of an obstacle to enemy point-defense systems as possible. They may use shuttles in other cases, depending on the target's defenses. An electronic assault usually goes on at the same time, with disposable AIs flung into the enemy ship's network to try to wreak as much havoc as possible and maybe gain access to doors and such. It's actually a pretty good mil-SF series, not really so much *hard* as trying to pay as much attention as possible to physics, and works pretty damn well.

You may also wish to check out the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey (which is actually a pseudonym for two people) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Expanse_(novel_series)). Coincidentally, it's now a SyFy TV series, the pilot is online and IIRC the premiere is Monday night. Boarding actions are relatively common, and opposed ones (like, say, on a disabled warship) mainly consist of the attacking elements trying to reach engineering and the bridge before the defender realizes how bad their situation is and scuttles the ship.

Amon Winterfall
2015-12-13, 04:25 PM
Is there a way to make them less likely to penetrate walls and the presumably important devices behind them? Depending on the layout of the ship, bullets might be more dangerous than either side would like.

Its not a bad question, although questions of what fighting in space actually looks like would quickly come to the fore.

Computers already win pretty seriously in modern warfare, and 20 year old footage of the Gulf War showing extreme accuracy is obviously old news. If we're assuming that boarding is part of law enforcement and that less than lethal force will be tried first, it may very well be possible to try to aim away from critical systems. It doesn't really matter if everyone dies by acute radiation poisoning or simply being frozen / burned to death--if this is not acceptable culturally, law enforcement won't lightly do it.

I'm actually amazed at how thin the walls of spacecraft have been. The Lunar Lander was essentially covered in foil. There are so many constraints on building a spacecraft versus the offensive capabilities against them that it almost seems hopeless. Simply throwing a marble at relativistic speed is practically a gimme with space transit, but said marble would eat basically any defense offered against it today.

Most Science Fiction fudges this, big time. Materials that don't exist and probably couldn't exist are used to justify extreme levels of withstanding punishment--materials literally to the point of usefully channeling the energy used to destroy a planet. But even if spaceships are made out of things like aluminum and stainless steel, if the Police have a choice they can try to target things like weapon systems instead of life support.

CharonsHelper
2015-12-13, 06:14 PM
Computers already win pretty seriously in modern warfare,

Gotta say - unless it's pure future fantasy (in which case you just don't address it at all) about the first thing I'd do when creating a sci-fi world for an RPG is come up with a reason why all vehicles/weapons aren't automated. Mass Effect did a solid job (central to the world) - and while that's the biggest example, I've seen it done in other ways.


I'm actually amazed at how thin the walls of spacecraft have been. The Lunar Lander was essentially covered in foil. There are so many constraints on building a spacecraft versus the offensive capabilities against them that it almost seems hopeless. Simply throwing a marble at relativistic speed is practically a gimme with space transit, but said marble would eat basically any defense offered against it today.

Most Science Fiction fudges this, big time. Materials that don't exist and probably couldn't exist are used to justify extreme levels of withstanding punishment--materials literally to the point of usefully channeling the energy used to destroy a planet. But even if spaceships are made out of things like aluminum and stainless steel, if the Police have a choice they can try to target things like weapon systems instead of life support.

Just because modern spaceships are thin doesn't mean that future ones have to be. After all - just because motorcycles are around (literally NO armor) doesn't mean that tanks can't exist. The reason spaceships are so thinly armored are generally two-fold.

1. No one is shooting at them.

2. It's hard to get stuff up into space - so we make it as light as possible.

The first would obviously not be true in this world. The latter would no longer be true if we have the tech for space travel. (fusion engines or whatever would make it cheap to get metals into space and/or simply mine asteroids - which they're already considering for the near future as the next step to have spaceships pay for themselves after tourism)

As to defenses - who knows? Shields? Point-defense? (Sure that marble is vicious if it hits, but you can see it coming in space, and it wouldn't be too hard to deflect it with even less mass.) Perhaps interstellar travel is in warp bubbles (we'd need to beat the speed of light somehow) so normal momentum doesn't apply until you intercept their warp bubble and are at near stop relative to them.

Trekkin
2015-12-14, 11:22 AM
Just because modern spaceships are thin doesn't mean that future ones have to be. After all - just because motorcycles are around (literally NO armor) doesn't mean that tanks can't exist. The reason spaceships are so thinly armored are generally two-fold.

1. No one is shooting at them.

2. It's hard to get stuff up into space - so we make it as light as possible.

The first would obviously not be true in this world. The latter would no longer be true if we have the tech for space travel. (fusion engines or whatever would make it cheap to get metals into space and/or simply mine asteroids - which they're already considering for the near future as the next step to have spaceships pay for themselves after tourism)


In the case of manned spacecraft, they also operate either temporarily (as with Apollo) or with some degree of radiation shielding provided by their proximity to Earth. Interplanetary warships will need much more radiation shielding, and the most mass-efficient way to do that (for certain kinds of radiation) is a relatively thick layer of metal. So I would say all ships, not just warships, can be safely assumed to carry armor enough to factor into our tactical hypothesizing.