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Thread: Detecting a spaceship with today's sensor tech?

  1. #1 Detecting a spaceship with today's sensor tech? 
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    My question is not about massive arrays of telescopes that are on earth, but from the perspective of what ever sensor equipment we can install on a spaceship to detect another spaceship (made as stealthy as possible with today's tech). So Ill go with the following premise:

    If we had access to alien space engines and alien black paint that when painted on a hull protects the crew from radiation, but all the rest
    would be today's technology...
    ...we send a military ship about 3 times the size of a space shuttle into space (and all ground based radar and telescope are off line).

    If there's another black painted ship of that size "somewhere" in the solar system, heading towards earth from any potential direction (including from the opposite side of the earth)

    1- How close is the Other ship likely to get before its detected by the first ship?

    2- Isn't finding a black ship of that size in our solar system like looking for a needle in a haystack, or will it be easily picked up as far as Mars is?

    3- If Ship A is orbiting the moon and has no clue where the other ship is or where its heading, could ship B travel from Mars to Io without being spotted? (lets assume ship B gives a big thruster boost while behind Mars and coasts along most of the way without using engines)

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  3. #2  
    Forum Bachelors Degree
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    Apr 2011
    Well it would be undetected 100% unless the alein ship was like a few hundred feet away from the Human ship. Its like looking for a single tiny particle in a .. not haystack well the solar system.
    We could maybe find it by looking for a certain heat signature, but then you can also prevent heat from coming out a ship? I'm guessing same thing with light... Radar maybe you can detect ships, or something like a laser range finder that spins and can get the laser 360 deg all around, perhaps that can work too.

    The thruster boost would give out a huge heat signature so if you had sensors to detect hear variations in the surrounding space Ship A can detect ship B. and then Ship A can predict a flight path from there and can ambush Ship B.

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  4. #3  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    So from a space colonization sci-fi role playing perspective (as opposed to full blown space opera with warp and shields etc), where rocket ship adventurers use their Sensor skill, the enemy ship would be quite hard to spot when in transit, but less hard to spot when its in the departure or arrival stage (presumably as it maneuvers to make a pass to get into weapon's range). Also presumably if you already know the location (docked on a space station) and are tracking it, then the ship isnt really hard to follow (unless it make a big maneuver behind a moon or a planet).

    Also if you are in a system with hundreds of spaceships flying around, you might not have a reason to spot the many very distant ship (because 99.9% would be of no concern) and only worry about ships maneuvering for an interception trajectory(potential enemy or pirates).

    And Pirates could stay quiet near the asteroid belt (where theres thousands of objects moving about), focus their sensors on a distant merchant ship docked to a space station, wait till the ship departs and takes a trajectory, and then plot an intercept course and attack it in transit. The Pirate ship would have an easy sensor roll to track the merchant ship because its aiming its telescope right at it, while the merchant ship would have a difficult sensor skill to acheive as its sensors are in 360 rotation mode until the pirate ship gets into the maneuvering range for the attack where it would be easier for the merchcant ship to detect the incoming pirate ship. When the merchant ship signals a may day, which might take minutes to reach a patrol ship, the Pirate ship if it boarded and went on its way would be easy to track for a patrol ship, up until it manouvered behind a moon or planet or behind the astroid belt at which point it would be hard for the patrol ship to re-acquire the Pirate ship (which could very well stay behind the moon/asteroid). Does this sound somewhat plausible?
    Last edited by icewendigo; May 31st, 2012 at 12:18 PM.
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