Orbital weapon platforms were a type of powerful, automated planetary defense system developed by the Cardassian military during the Dominion War. They were protected by regenerative force fields and equipped with three heavy disruptors and 1,000 plasma torpedoes.
The platforms were developed in late 2374, when the Cardassian Union and the Dominion were embroiled in fighting on three separate fronts, with the Federation, the Klingon Empire, and the Romulan Star Empire. Faced with the prospect of being outnumbered, the Cardassians began developing the automated defense platforms as a means of cheaply defending their home territories, allowing fleet resources to be deployed on the offensive.
The first platforms were deployed in the Chin'toka system, since the system's defending forces had been thinned substantially. In the subsequent allied attack, the platforms demonstrated their superior firepower against the allied fleet, scoring numerous kills against larger starships. Their regenerative deflector shielding also protected the platforms from return fire, rendering them nearly invulnerable.
However, the network of platforms possessed a crucial design flaw that the Cardassians had not expected the allies to be able to exploit. In order to decrease the mass (and complexity) of the platforms as much as possible, and still supply them with enough energy, the individual platforms were not equipped with their own power source but instead received energy from a large central generator. This generator was placed on an asteroid moon orbiting one of the planets in the system.
Although a frontal attack against the power generator proved futile due to the generator's high-powered shields, the allies developed a means of tricking the automated platforms into firing on their own power source by imprinting a Federation warp signature on the generator. The gamble was successful, and with their power source destroyed, the weapon platforms deactivated. (DS9: "Tears of the Prophets")
Orbital weapon platforms were also deployed around Cardassia Prime. Starfleet was to engage the platforms during the Federation Alliance's siege of the planet in late 2375, but fortunately the Female Changeling surrendered before that became necessary. (DS9: "What You Leave Behind")
Background information Edit
During the making of "Tears of the Prophets", Terri Potts commented to the sound editors about the orbital weapon platforms that "You'll have fun with them. They're Cardassian, but different from anything that we've ever done before". Ruth Adelman added "They're state of the art". (Star Trek: Action!)
A model of an orbital weapon platform is to be releases as a special issue of the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection.