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Nova cannon

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A Nova Cannon attached to the prow of a Dominator Class Cruiser

A Nova Cannon is a weapon of great size and destructive power used by ships of the Imperial Navy which propels explosive projectiles close to the speed of light.[1c]


While some variation exists, the basic design of a Nova Cannon consists of an array of gravimetric impellers which accelerate a projectile to a fraction of the speed of light.[2a] However Nova Cannons can only be mounted on large capital ships such as Cruisers and Battleships and in the ship's prow.[2a] This is because the immense recoil of firing the weapon can only be compensated for by the vessel's engines.[1c] While at least one Astartes Battle Barge is known to have been retrofitted with a nova cannon, doing so taxed the vessel to its limits: firing the weapon resulted in momentary power failure throughout the ship.[7] The projectile itself varies in greater design and size, ranging upwards of fifty meters in diameter.[3] However all share the common goal of causing immense destruction across thousands of kilometers of space. These can range from sophisticated plasma warheads which burn with the ferocity of a small star for a fraction of a second to implosion devices which exert destructive gravitational forces.[2a]

Because of the destruction it can cause over a vast area, a Nova Cannon projectile is not armed until a fraction of a second after firing, though by that time it will have already traveled tens of thousands of kilometers through space.[2a] Nova Cannons are also notoriously difficult to operate and inaccurate, which is why many Naval captains prefer to use traditional torpedoes instead. For those captains which do mount them, a well-used Nova Cannon can be a terrifying weapon and psychological tool.[2a]


Mars-pattern Nova Cannon

The Mars-pattern Nova Cannon is the most common of all Nova Cannon construction templates. Colossal weapons measuring hundreds of meters in length, they fire a gigantic shell at near relativistic velocities. The shell mirrors a conventional explosive shell, although on an extremely massive scale, and upon detonation will explode with more force than dozens of plasma warheads.[2b]

Ryza-pattern Nova Cannon

The Ryza-pattern Nova Cannon replaces the explosive shell used by the Mars-pattern Nova Cannon with a highly unstable plasma-based macro-bomb. These weapons use much more power than a Stygies-pattern, but are thought to be more effective. Weaponising such a huge quantity of plasma however carries its own risk, as overheating systems can potentially cause damage to the weapon and the ship itself.[2b]


  • Rift Shells - Similar to a Vortex Torpedo, except much larger[4]
  • Electromagnetic Shells - Designed to interfere with enemy sensors and communications[4]
  • Grav Shells - A newer design, these are extremely difficult to make and as such are extremely rare and dangerous. When detonated, Grav Shells implode in on themselves and create a miniature black hole.[4]
  • Doppler Shells - Release large amounts of graviometric waves that will bounce off the hulls of ships and expose hidden enemies[4]

Known ships equipped with Nova Cannons