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For a game I need an "orbital weapon platform"/"orbital weapons platform" and wonder which one is correct, or sounds better for an English native speaker.

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Isn't there a bit of ambiguity in your question? "Orbital weapons platform" sounds better if you're talking about a real-life, physical platform, capable of buttressing and supporting things, but on the other hand, "orbital weapon platform" could also be a good answer if you're talking about an abstract architecture designed to support interoperable components. Indeed, "Orbital Weapon Platform" sounds like a good working title of some senior engineer's project pitch to Emperor Palpatine... –  Uticensis Feb 28 '11 at 5:10
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When I developed a game of that sort, we called it an Orbiting Missile Platform (singular), because it could carry many missiles but only missiles; I'd be interested to hear if that makes any difference. –  Brian Hooper Feb 28 '11 at 6:58
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5 Answers 5

I think they're both possible; the difference to my ear is that I would expect an "orbital weapons platform" to be some sort of, well, platform, which supports or can support multiple weapons, while an "orbital weapon platform" could just be shortened to "orbital weapon."

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+1 great minds think alike! ;) –  gpr Feb 28 '11 at 4:31
    
Tend to agree that if the singular were used, it should just be "orbital weapon". Not to put too fine a point to it, but "orbital weapon platform" sounds like exactly the kind of awkward construction somebody unfamiliar with the vernacular would use. –  chaos Feb 28 '11 at 4:35
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"Orbital weapon platform" sounds like there might be only one (very large) weapon on the platform, whereas "Orbital weapons platform" sounds like it might be bristling with many weapons.

That's how it sounds to my native English ears.

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It's the singular of a noun that is normally used as modifier for another noun.

Apple will publish the new version of its 64-bit operating system very soon.
The new orbital weapon platform will be operative before the end of June.

If I look at weapons platform on the Corpus of Contemporary American, I find eleven instances of the phrase (with six instances used in fiction contexts), and two instances of weapon platform). Five instances of weapons platform have been used in the period 2005-2010.

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What? What does this all mean? The plural of a noun can also be used a modifier, right? Also, "64-bit" cannot be used as a noun, supposing that's the intent of the first example. –  Potatoswatter Feb 28 '11 at 6:06
    
Bit in "64-bit microprocessor" or "64-bit operating system" is a noun used as modifier for microprocessor or operating system. –  kiamlaluno Feb 28 '11 at 7:24
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"Orbital weapons platform" is typical usage for the topic (compare exhibit A and exhibit B, displaying an 18:1 ratio in favor), and sounds better to my native English-speaking ears.

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"Orbital weapon platform" would be a single vehicle which is launched into orbit to stage a weapon.

"Orbital weapons platform" would be a system or vehicle design allowing many weapons.

So, if it's a Civilization-style technology which the user develops, it would be an orbital weapons platform.

If they launch a number of them one at a time, each is an orbital weapon platform.

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