Science Fiction and Physics
Personally, I remember just enough IB Physics to still geek out when a science fiction design does it right. It’s really quite rare, usually for artistic license or just creator ignorance.
The Babylon 5 Starfury is an excellent example of what a practical design for how a small spaceship would work, with multiple adjusting jets.
The same goes for Mass Effect. Magnetic railguns are the weapon of choice in that setting, which are essentially mass driver tech.
Science fiction tends to love lasers, because they’re pretty against the black space background. But the science doesn’t work that way. If we’re talking energy beams, frequency determines strength, and the highest frequency waves are the ones we can’t see. Laser beams as we have them now also disperse over a certain range, and lose strength and effectiveness over distance.
But the best design are mass drivers. You seriously can’t go wrong with shooting a hunk of mass really fast. This works doubly well in space, because there is no air friction and your mass will simply keep going. There’s a lovely bit in Mass Effect 2 where a gunnery sergeant is yelling into recruits that they have to be absolutely sure with their targeting, because if the shot misses it will keep going and hit somebody, somewhere, who will not be happy about it.
Settings also tend to show space battles at jarringly close range, which ignores the fact that space is freaking huge. Given that range really isn’t a problem (unless you’re using lasers) you don’t have to get so close… but then it would be less dramatic. B5 gets away with this by rarely showing large battling ships in the same shot, instead cutting from ships shooting to ships getting hit. There are also no shields in B5, instead using thick armor and interceptor fire. The interceptors fire their own shots to prevent those of the enemy from hitting their hull, which is a practical tech. The right kind of armor can also disperse beam weapons, which is mentioned.
Designs for weaponised ships in Mass Effect are cool, because they make sense. Magnetic railguns propel a projectile along an electromagnetic barrel, so to speak, accelerating the mass along that length. The longer it is, the faster it will go. The faster it goes, the more kinetic energy it carries which is then transferred on impact with the target. This is why the ships have forward facing guns, and in particular one long one stretching along the length of the ship up to the nose, maximising the length of the barrel.
B5 Starfuries are, again, an awesome design. There are some models with wings made for atmospheric flight, where wings are necessary, and the older models are for space only. The firing of different jets gives the little fighter impressive mobility, and the pilots are locked in place due to lack of gravity. Narn and human ships both lack artificial gravity and the crew tend to also be shown belted down, unless it has rotating sections.