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Space Mines

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The Dominion plays Minesweeper...In Space

Space Is an Ocean and sometimes your Space Navy needs to block access to a port, a space lane, or even an entire planet. How to do this? Why, Space Mines, of course. These are like their seagoing counterparts, but IN SPAAAAACE!

Just like there are several types of Sea Mines, so there are also many types of Space Mines. Most common are proximity mines, that go off when a ship gets too near, and contact mines that go off when they hit a ship's hull. Magnetic mines are attracted to metal hulls. Homing mines are essentially missiles that sit around until they detect a ship's engine or weapon energy signature, then angle themselves at the target and let fly. Some mines are miniature weapons platforms that open fire when ships get too close. Remote-detonated mines can be set off by a waiting vessel when a target ship gets in range. Nuclear mines have nuclear warheads in them. Then there are mines that rob ships of power (dampening fields) instead of just exploding. There are many other variations and combinations.

In real life, there would be some major limitations to this trope. However, since Space Mines seem to be an ubiquitous part of Space Operas, sometimes the savvy writer thinks of the above limitations and writes around them - and real-life applications have even been discussed in military circles.

  • In order to secure a whole planet, you'd have to mine space three-dimensionally in order to be effective. In fiction this is often not done.
  • Earth's ocean and sea terrain contains a lot of inlets, natural harbors, bays, straits and other types of terrain that make natural choke-points where the use of mines is a practical way to deny or substantially delay passage to unwanted ships. No such barriers or terrain exist in space, and so such a barrier may be easily circumnavigated. Even protecting a very small moon with a density of one mine per every few thousand cubic kilometers would require massive numbers of mines and logistical support to successfully achieve coverage. While not completely impossible, the same logistical resources would be of better use in improving detection and interception/quick reaction capability, or outright constructing more battleworthy spaceships. Can be justified if there IS a conveniently narrow pathway to barricade, such as a local entrance to Hyperspace or the Portal Network, or if the object to be surrounded by mines is fairly small, such as an asteroid base.
  • Laying mines takes time, and for every increase in target area's radius, the number of mines you would need increase quadratically. To cover large or even moderate areas could take hundreds of years, even if it only took a few seconds to lay each mine. Justified if the mines have potential to locate and approach, or shoot, their targets from massive range, thus ensuring blockade functionality despite low minefield density, or can be all released in a single spot and relocate and organise autonomously. As for the matter of quantity, this can be explained by having automated manufacturing and minelaying facilities operating over lengthy time periods, or have the mines themselves be self-propagating Von Neumann machines.
  • Sea mines are deployed under water, greatly complicating the task of detecting and clearing them. Space Mines, however, are completely exposed, and easily detected since spaceships have to be able to detect debris of sufficient size to cause damage by impact. Unless there were some sort of mitigating factor (sensory disruption, cloaked mines, etc.) space ships could just pick them off with long range guns/lasers/missiles/decoys/whatever. May be partially justified by the fact that, unlike enemy ships, they can be inert, dormant and undistinguishable from generic space debris until they're close enough to strike.
  • Everything with mass has gravity. In space, little things that are relatively close to each other tend to clump up — this is how planets and stars are born, and why there are no Asteroid Thickets. The mines would need some way to fight or negate the effects of gravity on each other that also wouldn't run out of fuel. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if they're not close enough to clump up, they will tend to drift off, and potentially become hazards to navigation. Oceanic mines are moored to the sea floor; space mines cannot be.

Not to be confused with Space Mining operations, mining valuable materials from asteroids or other planets in space


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    Anime & Manga 
  • There are massive space minefields around the Men's Planet (Tarak) that is visited towards the end of Vandread (second season). They are used to reveal First Mate BC as The Mole, since s/he knows the friend-foe codes of the mines that allow Nirvana to pass them.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, the area around the space colonies is seeded with mines to prevent any unauthorized travel. Trowa's first assignment upon enlisting with OZ is to help destroy the mines, as part of OZ's "kinder and gentler" facade.
    • The original series had both the Gyan, which could deploy floating mines from its shield and the MSV model kit Zaku Minelayer, which was just the standard Mook with a bigger backpack that dropped mines.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Wrong Reflection the Terran Empire lays a minefield in the path of an oncoming Klingon/Cardassian attack fleet. The USS Bajor's Master Chief Wiggin spots the minefield and they're able to drop out of warp in time to avoid it, but much of the fleet runs right into it and the Klingon general is killed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Tothian minefield in Galaxy Quest provides a rather dangerous shelter for the Protector when "Taggart" and his crew find themselves outgunned by Sarris. It comes into play again in the finale, when they use it to pull a variant on the Wronski Feint against Sarris' ship: the magnetic mines trail behind the ship, and Sarris runs straight into them. Averts the usual problem with space mines in that the field has enough layers to cover a significant portion of space (enough to look like a nebula from a distance which is why they fly into it in the first place), though still woefully small in the grand scale of things.
  • In the Unwinnable Training Simulation that starts off Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the ship the Enterprise needs to rescue was disabled by a gravitic mine.

  • Stewart Cowley's Spacecraft: 2000 to 2100 A.D.. During the war with Proxima Centauri, the perimeter of Earth's solar system was seeded with nuclear mines. These were actually "pre-launched" missiles that would home in on the warp generators of arriving enemy ships in their sensor radius and destroy them while they were recharging their power banks after the warp jump.
  • Crest of the Stars has mines being one of the three main weapons being used in space battles (the other two being anti-proton beams and railguns). Ships deploy mines around themselves as defense, as the mines are self-piloting and follow the ship's movements; or employ them as self-guided missiles against distant enemies. The nature of space combat in the series makes them the most effective long-range weapons, with the particle beams and railguns being short-range options for when you can actually see your enemy.
  • Honor Harrington has this; it gets around Space Is Big by having the mines basically be the same 10,000-kilometer-range laser warheads found on their missiles. They later come up with a system defense variant of their missile pods, creating missile-firing mines with much greater range. Additionally, mines tend to be placed to cover small areas: the orbits around a planet, a wormhole exit, or (occasionally) quickly laid in the path of an incoming fleet. The visibility issue is avoided in that professional forces (ie. everyone who isn't State Sec) use them as a force multiplier rather than a sole defense: slow down to take potshots at the minefield and you leave yourself wide open for attacks from the system-defense forces.
  • Another of David Weber's series, Empire from the Ashes, has 'hyper mines' that sit in normal space and wait for somebody to go through in hyperspace. They then leap into hyperspace and disrupt the hyper field, destroying the ship. They're generally of little use unless you know exactly where your opponent will be coming in.
  • The Halo novels reveal the UNSC to have several types of space mines:
  • In Tour of the Merrimack: The Myriad, there are mines surrounding the entrance of the wormhole to Origin.
  • Star Trek:
  • A number of space mines appear in Star Wars Legends, where they are particularly useful when placed along the exit points of hyperspace routes. Besides the usual exploding types, Wraith Squadron encountered a variant that used a gravity well generator to snatch fighters from hyperspace before triggering an ion pulse to disable them.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith's Family D'Alembert series - in the seventh book, the heroes have obtained (or so they think) the location where the enemy fleet is going to assemble. The best place in which to deploy for the killing ambush follows as a corollary. It's also seeded with mines. The Fleet avoids annihilation through a stroke of luck.
  • Pops up in a chapter of Battlefield Earth as a way for the rag-tag human freedom fighters to defend against other invading aliens following the initial liberation of Earth. Where the humans got them, how they managed to whip up a few thousand space mines, or why the Psychlos had the mines sitting in storage somewhere instead of in use, is never explained.
  • The hypernet gates used for transit between star systems important enough to justify the expense in The Lost Fleet turn out to also be capable of supernova scale detonation. In a sequel series the character discover two other species that also have the gates, are aware of this alternate use, and use it accordingly (read: not in important systems, but as perimeter system defensive mines).
  • In Terre en fuite, as the Planet Spaceships Earth and Venus are crossing the interstellar barrier between Etanor and Belul, they are attacked by homing fusion mines, placed there by the Telbirians to keep the Tilians (another Lost Colony) away from their system. Slightly justified by the fact that they're homing and are placed near the midpoint between the two systems (anyone traveling between them would likely take the most efficient route). Also, given the way sublight travel world in this 'verse, the only way to pierce the barrier between any two stars is to move at least 80% the speed of light, and the vessel has to be a Planet Spaceship (at least Moon-sized). This makes it much easier to detect incoming ships, since it's hard not to detect fast-moving planets. The mines end up doing significant damage to one of the sealed Mega Cities on Earth.
  • In Arrivals from the Dark, it's mentioned that, after their defeat in the four long Void Wars, the Faata occasionally lay traps for human patrol ships in the Void, including corrosion mines that rip ships apart. Fridge Logic comes into play, when you realize that the Void is a volume of space completely devoid of stars or planets between the Orion and Pegasus Arms of the galaxy, so it doesn't make much sense for the Faata to know exactly where to place such mines, unless the humans there are so stupid they always use the same exact patrol routes every time.
  • Laszlo Hadron and the Wargod's Tomb: The Corsair makes extensive use of EMP mines.
  • Mines are used in multiple battles in Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
  • Mr. Spaceship by Philip K. Dick. Humanity is fighting an alien race that uses a living minefield.
    “The belt is fifty thousand miles deep,” Gross added. “It solves another problem for them; repair and maintenance. The damn things reproduce, fill up the spaces by spawning into them. I wonder what they feed on?”
    “Probably the remains of our first-line. The big cruisers must be a delicacy. It’s a game of wits, between a living creature and a ship piloted by automatic relays. The ship always loses.”

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the pilot of Battlestar Galactica (1978), the Galactica must pass through a narrow region of space in a dense nebula that has been mined by the Cylons.
  • Babylon 5:
    • In "Matters of Honor", we see a Centauri minefield deployed to interdict access to a planet. This minefield actually consists of orbiting weapon platforms that fire on intruding starships instead of merely exploding when they get within range.
    • Captain Sheridan also used nuclear warheads as mines on at least two occasions, but these were remotely detonated from a starship when enemy vessels were deemed close enough.
    • In the Expanded Universe, more traditional mines are used to support a planet's defense against attackers. The Abbai in particular are known for their skills at making hard-to-detect proximity mines that will jump on hostile ships when they pass close enough.
  • Blake's 7:
    • In "Star One", the Federation has seeded a potential invasion route between our galaxy and Andromeda with mines, and the Liberator has to Hold the Line against the entire invasion force when a traitor deactivates a gap in the minefield. This makes the 2-D Space mistake, though the resource rule is acknowledged as a sign that the Federation takes the threat seriously.
    • In "Weapon", Travis seeds the space around a planet with small proximity mines. There's no further mention of the mines until they provide a Fake Kill Scare at the climax of the episode — the Liberator shudders from a blast and it appears the eponymous superweapon has been used against them, but they've just struck a mine, which is non-fatal to the self-repairing Liberator.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • "The Serpent's Venom" takes place in a space minefield where the mines all lock onto any sign of weapons and fly into it, exploding on impact. This region of space was used by the Goa'uld as a neutral meeting place. SG-1 has to reprogram a mine to attack one of the Goa'uld ships at the meeting, in order to instigate a conflict. Unfortunately, their plan backfires badly. Instead of starting a war between the two Goa'uld, Apophis destroys his nephew Heru'ur's ship and uses a fleet of cloaked Ha'taks he brought to protect his flagship from the mines. He ends up absorbing Heru'ur's remaining forces into his own empire.
    • Then in a later episode, Odyssey gets caught in one which disables it enough for the Lucian Alliance to board.
  • Star Trek
    • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror", the Romulan ship uses one of its self-destruct devices as an impromptu mine in an attempt to destroy the Enterprise.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation
      • In "Booby Trap", the Enterprise enters an asteroid belt that contain "acceton assimilators", mines which drain the ship's power, convert it to deadly radiation and beam it at the ship.
      • In "Chain of Command, Part II", an Enterprise shuttlecraft is used to lay mines in the McAllister C-5 Nebula, trapping the Cardassian ships hiding inside it. In this case, the ships were already present, so the mines just had to be placed near/on them.
      • Unfortunately, "Redemption, Part II" plays the 2-D minefield mistake straight.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • During the Dominion Wars, the Defiant mines the entrance to the Bajoran wormhole. At least in this case, the mines are protecting a single, uni-directional portal and are both cloaked and self-replicating to prevent easy removal.
      • The Klingons establish an illegal cloaked minefield in "Sons of Mogh". The mines are dormant and have to be remotely activated in event of war — and would effectively cut DS9 and Bajor off from support from elsewhere in the Alpha Quadrant.
    • In Star Trek: Enterprise, the Enterprise runs into a Romulan minefield surrounding a planet. The mines are cloaked and scattered everywhere, a rare example of such a field done right.
    • Star Trek: Discovery has a minefield surrounding the headquarters of Section 31. It's a relatively small target, the mines are everywhere, and they are self-guided, so getting past is not an easy feat.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Star Fleet Battles. Ships can "roll a mine out a hatch" and leave it to blow up a ship pursuing them. Mines can be set to accept only certain sizes of ships as targets. Major space installations often had minefield belts protecting them. Some of the mine types available:
    • The Romulans have a Nuclear Space Mine based on the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror".
    • Command mines can be ordered to detonate or to activate/deactivate themselves.
    • Chained mines detonate when other mines explode.
    • Transporter bombs can be beamed into position.
    • Captor mines can fire weapons at targets.
  • Iron Crown Enterprises' Cyberspace game had Orbital Mines for use against enemy spacecraft in orbit. Some had onboard computers and could make their own piloting/targeting decisions, others had to be operated by remote control.
  • AKVs in Transhuman Space are not exactly mines, but similar enough: they are AI-controlled missiles that can float in ambush until a craft flies near and then attack.
  • Battlefleet Gothic has a large number of scenarios in which the defender can buy and deploy defence systems ranging from purely in-system patrol vessels and armed space stations through to this trope, with Orbital Mines (homing, slow moving, relatively myopic target acquisition) and Deadfall Torpedo Salvoes (ship-killing torpedoes, faster moving than mines, with slightly better target acquisition, but functionally non-homing once their drives come up). It's also possible to refit a carrier into a mine-laying role, swapping attack craft squadrons for the capacity to drop a pair of mines.

    Video Games 
  • Wing Commander has Porcupine Space Mines (proximity, limited homing); there were also turret mines (miniature laser platforms), high explosive contact mines and viral mines (broadcast virus-infested transmissions to infect and shut down ship computer systems). In the first game, they even had Mine Thickets alongside the regular Asteroidal ones, and have been the bane of many a player during certain missions.
    • Wing Commander III, in particular, justifies use of mines when one mission sees you mining jump points to keep the Kilrathi from surprising the Confed forces in system.
  • The Babylon Project: In three levels of the Earth-Brakiri War, you have to navigate through a Centauri minefield. Unlike traditional contact or proximity mines, these mines shoot at you (see the Babylon 5 example above).
  • There's an online Flash game called Space Minefield.
    • Also one called Space Mines.
    • And a company called Cogmed created a flash game called Space Mine Patrol to demonstrate working memory.
  • Space mines appear often in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, both in novels and in the games.
    • Both the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games feature mines that shoot at you, rather than exploding. Most of the missions that feature these tend to be quite difficult. One especially memorable mission puts you in a (unshielded!) TIE Interceptor to single-handedly clear a minefield as a demonstration to some rookies how a hotshot pilot handles a tough obstacle. The objectives change in the middle of the mission, turns out it's a Uriah Gambit by a rogue admiral, and a loyal admiral comes to your rescue, but you still get a bonus if you can destroy a significant number of them.
    • Star Wars: Rebel Assault II and Rogue Squadron II also have space minefield levels.
  • The first few seconds of Sector X in Star Fox 64 has a cloud of mines you have to go through. They also appear fairly early on in Area 6.
  • Homeworld has Minelaying Corvettes. The mines themselves are proximity-triggered homing mines, solving the problem of mining in 3D space.
  • Freelancer has a few minefields, which have their own haunting ambience theme whenever the player is near or within one. These minefields are less like a field of mines and more like a thick, spherical meshwork of explosives, which kill any intruding spacecraftnote  very quickly.
  • Elite 2: Frontier and Elite 3: Frontier First Encounters let you deploy these mines... or be blown to bits with them. Honestly, these mines are uneffective.
  • Mines actually appear as obstacles in the games Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2, particularly in the Bowser Jr. levels.
  • Sword of the Stars has Minelayer sections in both destroyer and cruiser sizes. There are various warheads but all are proximity-triggered homers. There's also a Leap version that trades some power for much faster movement as an anti-Point Defense measure, as well as a Gravity mine that doesn't hurt but pulls ships to itself and an Implosion version that combines said Gravity effect with an actual blast. They can be very effective, especially against the AI. There's even an upgrade to the Complex Ordnance Launcher that allows you to launch a minefield from afar.
  • Tachyon: The Fringe has weapon platform space mines. During the first training mission, the flight instructor didn't know they were live, causing the pilot to be attacked. A news report later mentions this happening against with a bunch of rookie pilots. Luckily, the same flight instructor already knew (based on your experience) what to do and saved them.
  • The Artemis System Net from Master of Orion 2: Battle At Antares is a massive minefield that surrounds the system it's built at. It has a chance of damaging or destroying enemy warships that attack the system depending on the size class (i.e. the larger the ship, the higher is the chance of it hitting a mine with Doomstars having a nearly 100% chance).
  • This is the special weapon (proximity, limited homing) of the Defiant-class in Star Trek: Armada.
    • And becomes a relatively common aft weapon in Star Trek Online, with a variety of different payloads (including tractor beams). However, because mine spreads are stationary relative to the local map, and have such a limited homing range, their best use is possibly taking down other mines and incoming heavy torpedoes
  • Possible in Sins of a Solar Empire, mixing two of the above excuses with 2D Space, and direct lines of approach to separate gravity wells.
  • Several varieties of Space Mines in X3 Terran Conflict. SQUASH Mines are your standard high explosive mines, Ion Mines target ship shields, Tracker Mines... track the enemy, and Matter/Antimatter Mines are like SQUASH mines but with more boom. In theory. In practice only the names are different. They all do the same type and amount of damage. One of the most effective uses of the mines is to load your ship with them, get a ton of enemies to chase you, drop all the mines, then order one mine to self-destruct. Big bada boom.
  • Stage 1 of R-Type Leo has space mines that form a laser grid with other mines.
  • Aera in Vega Strike has Porcupine "mines". It's a sluggish (about 0.5 g in any direction) Attack Drone with an autotracking gun and 100 shield-piercing shells to pelt enemies in range. It explodes if approached, but weaker than any missiles proper. In terms of volume and compatible mounts it's a "medium missile", which allows Aera escort fighters to carry a dozen of these pests, in addition to six mounts of the same weapon with much more ammo, rocket pods (in assault variant) and normal missiles.
  • Stars! (1995) minefields attack enemy ships traveling above certain warp speed and thus prevent a sudden invasion — an important part of the game. Ships equipped with Ramscoop engines suffer more damage; those that aren't tend to rely on fragile fuel transports, and since mines, like missiles, aren't fully negated by Deflector Shields, unarmored ships are killed easily. Specialization in mines is a primary racial trait, "Space Demolition". These guys have all 3 mine types, minelayer hulls, lay mines on the run and are much more capable both of surviving mine attacks and using their own mines offensively. They also use minefields as detection arrays — if used correctly, this makes sneaking up on them almost impossible: move fast and get blown up, or move slowly and be detected early. Or run into normal and heavy mines, have surviving ships stopped by speed traps and detected — unable to repair without blown up transports or even run away due to still being stuck in the middle of 3 overlapping fields. Conversely, War Mongers don't have such defensive weapons at all.
  • In Another Century's Episode (the original), one mission (loosely based on Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, mentioned above) has you clearing out a minefield so Relena Peacecraft can make a goodwill visit to the colonies.
  • In VGA Planets ships with torpedo tubes can lay mines. Efficiency depends on Tech Level. It can be expensive in terms of restocking ammo, though mines that aren't swept can be scooped by another ship or even another allied player's ship, so it sometimes allows to reload empty torpedo tubes in the middle of nothing. Both laying and sweeping minefields are fleet orders, i.e. ships have to stand there and not do anything else other than defending themselves. Crystals race also have web mines — these stop enemy ships at random, so the fleets break apart and steadily drain fuel, so the victime can get stuck for good.
  • Mines are used to defend a Void gate in Infinite Space, but the invading fleet cuts right through them with a massive missile barrage. The Oort Interception System around the prison planet Skantzoura is made up of mines that shoot anything that comes close like the Babylon 5 example.
  • In Ten Minute Space Strategy, orbital minefields are one of the special traits your empire can develop which speeds up the destruction of invading enemy fighters on your planets.
  • Space Pirates and Zombies allows both the player and the various enemies to use mines as a weapon. What you're really dropping is a cloaked dispenser that will scatter a limited area with cloaked mines that are attracted to your hull. One type of side-mission involves entering minefields to recover cargo though. As the game uses 2-D Space, the presence of this trope may be justified.
  • Dead Space 3 has a mined debris field about a planet. Said mines also seem to have some sort of guidance system, drifting towards active ships and people, but not derelicts and space junk. They also appear to have been dropped haphazardly throughout a debris field, which may indicate that they weren't intentionally placed, but rather exposed and somehow activated when the ships holding them were damaged and vented to space.
  • Heart of the Swarm has a level set in an Asteroid Thicket that also contains a large amount of mag-mines. When they detect an enemy, they activate and fly straight towards the ship, but are nice enough to have a great big laser designator to show where they're going. And fortunately, the Hyperion can perform short-range warp jumps to dodge or sidestep them.
  • Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon has mines which will travel towards a hostile ship and explode when they come close enough. The Minelayer class of ships can deploy mines, which will only target ships hostile to the Minelayer's team. Some maps start with mines on them, in some cases they are hostile to all ships.
  • The Warframe quest The War Within grants access to missions inside a top-secret Grineer space fortress where you can see mines being dropped into depths of an Asteroid Thicket.
    • Railjack misions against the Grineer will sometime have them deploy Exploding Barrels as mines, seeding them in the Asteroid Thicket to blow up unwary players. If you feel so inclined, you can instead shoot the mines for resources.
  • One minor enemy that you can encounter in space encounters in Starbound are ambulatory mines. These are stationary until you enter their detection radius, whereupon their eyes open and they begin pursuit, detonating themselves when they get close enough. Fortunately, even though they have higher than normal health for enemies at their tier, the basic mech's cannon can dispense with these foes in a handful of shots.
  • Star Trek: Armada: The Federation Defiant-class's special weapons are antimatter mines, which lie still in space until they detect the warp signatures of enemy ships or stations and hone in on their target. Similarly, the Klingon B'rel or Bird-of-Prey's special weapons are gravity mines, which hone in on an enemy ship's warp signature and attach themselves to their hull, showing them down.

    Web Comics 

    Real Life 
  • While most science fiction applications of Space Mines are ridiculous in practical application, it might be feasible to set up Space Mines in certain high-traffic orbitals, e.g. geosynchronous orbit. Other targets would be those used in an orbital insertion after launch from a major ground-based spaceport. You could also position them at Lagrange points due to their use in the Interplanetary Transport Network.
  • Currently, space debris, also known as orbital debris, space junk, and space waste, is the collection of objects in orbit around Earth that were created by humans but no longer serve any useful purpose. These objects consist of everything from spent rocket stages and defunct satellites to erosion, explosion and collision fragments. To date there have been several known and suspected impact events, and several satellites have been destroyed.
    • As the chance of collision is a function of the number of objects in space, there is a critical density where the creation of new debris occurs faster than the various natural forces remove these objects from orbit. Beyond this point a runaway chain reaction can occur that reduces all objects in orbit to debris in a period of years or months. This possibility is known as the "Kessler syndrome", and there is debate as to whether or not this critical density has already been reached in certain orbital bands.