The Rail-Cannon was an electric-based weapon that used conductive, non-explosive projectiles to damage and destroy enemy targets. The cannon utilized dual rail technology. The projectile would remain in contact with both rails until electrical currents created a magnetic field that propelled the projectile from the device. The weapon was developed under the banner of BlasTech Industries for the Galactic Republic.
The weapon was developed upon request by the Republic armed forces as an alternative to energy-based warfare. The Republic was hoping to purchase a weapon that had the capabilities to surpass the energy-shield systems of large enemy naval ships and planetary installations. BlasTech Industries got to work drafting and modeling a warship heavy cannon. Initial designs called for gas operated weaponry and energy-imbued projectiles—similar to slugthrowers—but simulations left the manufacturer and Republic disappointed in their accuracy and range.
The next item on the agenda centered around electrically-accelerated projection. The cannon was technically large and energy consuming, but it met the specifications in power, speed, accuracy and range. The weapon was also not hindered by the environment and conditions of space. BlasTech drew up specifications and began construction on experimental models.
The initial tests did not look promising for the Rail-Cannon. The weapon suffered from slower than expected turn rate, massive overheating, extensive erosion and energy consumption. The weapon's large size and mass made it difficult to maneuver the weapon on its track with its required crew. The designers swapped many of the heavier materials for cost-effective and light synthetic materials. The replacement materials had to be remarkably heat-resistant and durable due to the high heat discharge and friction that quickly eroded the original material. Engineers also created a mechanism that kept the rails open to the low temperatures of space rather than closing it immediately for reload. This helped dissipate the heat at a higher rate at the cost of reload time.
The weapon was also a problem because of its electrical foundation. The cannon was founded on the ability to use electrical currents to propel an object at great speeds and distances. This created the energy problem. The only solution to this was to find a way to recycle the currents back into the weapon so that one charge could be used to propel several projectiles. A closed-loop circuit was the obvious choice, but could only be implemented after the projectile was discharged and safely away from the reload slot so as not to endanger the crew. Circuitry under the non-conductive base was selected to carry the current until the weapon was safe for operation.
After several more trial and error specific tests, the weapon was certified by the BlasTech R&D department and put into mass production.
The Republic placed an order for over ten-thousand such devices during its campaign against the Barbarians circa 20 BBY. Many of the large craft that were in service during the war were outfitted with this cannon. The high price-tag prevented the weapon from becoming the preferred cannon of choice—energy-based cannons were still far more prevalent— for the Galactic Republic Navy and army outposts.
After the war, nearly all traces of the cannon were scrubbed from the galaxy as many of the craft were either destroyed, re-outfitted or scrapped for material.
The tactical success of the cannon led to frenzied research and development into the feasibility of personal weapons using this technology. Despite the previous success, the weapon was deemed improbable and/or too costly to profitably produce. Historians agreed the potential of the "railgun" was killed with the decision of BlasTech. Many rival companies also produced cheaper knock offs of the cannon, much to the chagrin of their customers, as the weapons suffered from the same basic flaws the first cannons had for the BlasTech brand.
The Rail-Cannon benefited from many strengths. The Rail-Cannon requires little in the way of traditional maintenance because it does not require oils, lubricants or serums to keep the parts functioning. It also does not have to deal with the cleaning problems that manifest in "moving parts" weapons such as guns and vibro-blades. The design is relatively simple compared to some blasters and nearly all turbolasers, ion cannons and artillery. It was proven to have a faster acceleration rate than all gas-operated and chemically-operated (slugthrowers) weapons. When the weapon was created in blaster format, it tested out at a higher rate of fire than gas, chemically and most energy-operated weapons because it requires no need to displace spent casings and would not have the need to house a propellant and projectile. Due to the superior acceleration rate, the projectile's force of impact is greater on the target than accelerated coherent light and traditionally accelerated projectiles.
The cannon suffers from excessive friction, brought on by the projectile accelerating along the rails, and heat caused by the powerful currents running through the rails. The heat can melt and warp the rails if not properly cooled or used excessively, while the recoil can bend the rails sideways if the rails are not properly fortified. Heat has been known to cause heat-induced expansion of the rails and projectile which further aggravates the friction problem. The relatively large mass caused by the size of the cannon prevents it from being used as an anti-aircraft weapon and makes it susceptible to enemy fire if not properly protected.
The weapon uses massive amounts of power, usually from the ship's generator unless it has the close-circuit function installed on the cannon to recycle electrical current for more than one attack. Because the weapon is predicated on firing a projectile during each use, erosion also was a major problem as the object wears on the rail and shortens its operational life. The Rail-Cannon had to be connected to an electrical power source to operate, this meant that a power outage or disabled generator rendered the cannon useless. Power restoration was usually the only way to operate the weapon again, unless a powerful battery or auxiliary generator was available.
The Rail-Cannon, at its core, consists of two parallel conductive rails, hence its name, that connect to an electrical power source. The Cannon required a large source of energy which usually limited it to large warships or outposts outfitted with a nuclear generator, fusion reactor, or hypermatter reactor core. When a conductive projectile was inserted horizontally between the rails—the projectile's ends would be in contact with the polar opposite rails—the electrical circuit would close and be complete. The power would flow through the positively charged rail to the projectile, then through the negative rail and back to the power supply to recycle. This current made the railgun behave as an electromagnet, creating a powerful magnetic field in the region of the rails up to the position of the projectile. The magnetic field circulates around each conductor (positive rail, projectile, negative rail, etc.). As the current races through the rails, they rotate, perpendicularly to the rails, in opposite directions (clockwise for negative charge, counter-clockwise for positive charge). This causes an object to be squeezed and pushed perpendicularly to the magnetic fields, akin to squeezing a wet bar of soap. The pressure exerted on the object causes it to move to relieve the pressure. In theory, this would push an object along the rails of the Rail-Cannon until it shot off the end and broke the circuit. Thus propelling it at great force.
Behind the scenes
The Rail-Cannon was based on the real-world device known as the Railgun. The Cannon's limitations, possibilities and function/operation were based on that of the railgun. The Rail-Cannon was developed and created by I'm the Chosen One. It was voted Best Technology in the 6th Wiki Awards
- Railgun on Wikipedia