These defensive systems have had numerous incarnations and names from many different sources, but the principle is basically the same. The name derives from the science fiction RPG Traveller, which makes extensive use of them. They are perhaps the most basic kind of spaceship defense beyond hull armor.
Sandcasters throw out large clouds of particulate of one kind or another (actual sand has been quoted because of its assumed cheapness to obtain, but tiny ball bearings, water droplets, and dust have been mentioned in various sources) around the ship, or in the direction of an incoming threat. Because of the huge relative velocity differences in space combat, even small grains of sand would impact incoming threats like shrapnel and missiles with the force of high-powered bullets.
Sandcaster magazines would basically be comprised of large canisters filled with particulate, whose contents are shot out into space and immediately dispersed in an outward-bound cloud. As these are relatively low velocity, low range weapons, sandcasters are usually the defensive measure of last resort, a Hail-Mary cloud of particles used to stop or deflect incoming dangers. They're also of some use against beam weapons such as lasers and particle beams as they create an obscuring cloud that can weaken or perhaps even deflect an incoming beam. A sandcaster's cloud of expanding particles can also help obscure a ship's sensor signature, helping to prevent precise target locks.
Though relatively low-velocity for space applications, the particles in the sandcaster cloud are still ejected with a force rivaling high-powered rifles. Used against mundane targets such as personnel or ground vehicles, they can have quite a devastating mega-shotgun-like effect, especially close up. Because of the light mass of their projectiles, however, their range is severely limited in an atmosphere.
Some sources have also suggested making the "sand" magnetically charged and using a small drone sub-unit with a powerful magnetic field to shape the sand into different configurations for different purposes. If trying to deflect incoming shrapnel, for instance, arranging the particulate into expanding layers would be more effective than just a random cloud. Also, if one can anticipate having to defend against laser weapons, the particles in the cloud can be specifically made light-reflective.
Traveller RPG, et al, all editions
On The Web:
|HOME||DEFENSES & COUNTERMEASURES HUB|