Japan Has Invented A Space Cannon

Senior Contributor
10.24.13 14 Comments
"I'm coming for you, mofo."

“I’m coming for you, mofo.”

Despite its reputation for wackiness and love of robots, building terrifying running robots and proto-Terminators is something Japan generally leaves to America. No, Japan is too busy figuring out how to mug you in space. And they’ve now got a working prototype of a space cannon!

Building a ballistic weapon in space is harder than it looks. Despite what you might think, a gun would work in space; lack of oxygen isn’t the issue. Temperature, however, is. It’s pretty hard to make something blow up when it’s at absolute zero; that’s why most space weaponry that’s actually been proposed and built tends towards lasers or railguns, which are less sensitive to temperature and also more appealing to the eight-year-old in us all.

Fortunately, Japan doesn’t want to blast your house from orbit. They want to blow a big-ass hole in a space rock.

The space cannon is to be mounted on the Hayabusa-2 vehicle, which will carry it to the asteroid, which orbits between Earth and Mars. This is essentially a kinetic impact weapon that relies on an explosive charge to launch a 4lb slug into the surface. The spacecraft will release the weapon, allowing it to float downward while it takes cover on the opposite side of 1999JU3.

Here’s a video demonstrating how it works. You… might want to mute this one.

The idea is that 1999JU3 is a rock from the very beginning of the universe, and blowing a hole in it will allow JAXA (yes, Japan’s space agency is called JAXA) to get a better idea of what it’s made of, thus possibly opening doors to a better understanding of the beginning of the universe. Owning a space cannon, strapping it to a satellite, and blowing stuff up with it is just a bonus.

Alas, this won’t be happening soon; the actual asteroid blasting won’t happen until 2018 and we won’t get data until 2020. But who cares? We want to see how DARPA one-ups this. We’re assuming it will be the same thing, but with more explosives and set off by a laser.

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