Full Item Description
This device appears to some as a huge metal flower. Five large solar-collecting petals surround a large spherical lense. This flower-head sits on a grey metal cylinder 2 meters high by 40cm in diameter. The petals and lense are covered with matt organic material of various colors to prevent easy detection from orbit- reflective surfaces can be easily picked up by satellite or starship.
When deployed, only the panels and lense are exposed, the remainder is typically buried.
The SSL-30 was a stopgap weapon built during the worst conflagration of human history. It was during this war that the Haruun empire, losing and unable to compete with the quality of the Terran Armed Forces, threw out the conventions of war and unsealed their arsenals of nuclear ordinance. At this point in the war, the battle was fought primarily in the Haruun systems, but some battles occurred in TAF held systems. The nuclear holocaust unleashed during this war of the war set back human expansion 50 years- nearly 50% of human population outside of the Sol system - was lost. Several worlds were rendered so radioactive that to recover them would take centuries.
The SSL-30 helped contribute to this devastation and directly caused much of the civilian casualties on the Haruun held worlds. The weapons were deployed in great numbers being fairly simple to construct. The Haruun adhered to a scorched earth policy, and the SSL-30 fit into that policy perfectly.
The units were deployed around targets expected to receive orbital attacks, far enough away from the targets to avoid destroying them themselves. However, this also tended to place them in the civilian areas that grew up to serve the installations.
It was the tremendous bloodshed of this war which led to the developments which would create the Rules of Engagement
The SSL-30 is an anti-orbital one-shot weapon. It uses a relatively small nuclear charge to fire a single, powerful X-ray laser blast. It is expected that targeting information will be fed to the weapon by some other compatible system, though it can be manually fired (in this case, hitting a precise target in orbit would be ‘highly’ unlikely.)
Normal doctrine is to deploy dozens of these systems scattered widely and concealed. Although well equipped with nuclear materials, it uses solar cells to maintain it’s ready state to help avoid detection from space.
Often, small groups of ‘caretakers’ will be employed to insure that dust and debris does not build up on the solar panels. These groups are often primitive and poorly educated and not fully briefed on what these systems would do if activated.
When activated, the low-yield warhead (approx 50 kilotons) detonates and creates a super high energy plasma which is used to create a powerful blast of coherent X-rays, directed through the targeting lense. The beam lasts only for milliseconds and delivers approximately 5% of the energy of the device to the target - the lense and other components are destroyed before additional energy can be delivered. The remainder of the energy takes the form of a conventional 50 kiloton groundburst - roughly comparible to the nuclear weapons used to end WW II.
One can easily scale up/down this weapon to fit your world-view. I imagine a similar device ‘triggered’ by antimatter would be possible, though too much energy might destroy the device too quickly for any lasing to occur…
The SSL-30 is considered a weapon of last resort. It was built to provide some defence, at any cost, against orbital units including starships and satellites.
Real Life Science
Nuclear-pumped X-ray lasers apparently exist(ed) in real life, but detailed information has been very sketchy. What I have been able to determine is certain materials when turned into high energy plasma will emit X-rays. One way of creating a powerful high energy plasma is with a nuclear detonation. The best source I found so far for a description is only in passing in a 1995 copy of Discover Magazine: http://discovermagazine.com/1995/jul/xraydreams535/?searchterm=x-ray%20laser Apparently the U.S. has succeeded using this method to generate ‘robust’ x-rays in the 80’s, though if this has advanced since then, it is difficult to tell. So, I would rate my own sub here as ‘Plausible’.