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Rulius September 20 2012 07:49 PM

TOS shuttle power sources.
In the TOS forum the discussion of the Galileo Seven episode prompted me to ponder " why don't the shuttles have a reactor for power?" Seems odd they would use only battery power? What do you all think?

Albertese September 20 2012 07:57 PM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
Well, if you have a good enough battery, why not? probably simpler than having a reactor on-board.


C.E. Evans September 20 2012 08:42 PM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
For all we know, a battery is used to kick-start a reactor. It's dead without one like a car would be.

Robert Comsol September 21 2012 12:10 AM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
That "battery power" is a mysterious thing and I think we're looking at a colloquialism that doesn't really tell us the whole story.

In "Mudd's Women" the Enterprise also had to rely on "battery power" after it had used up its dilithium crystals.

The Making of Star Trek is brutally clear on the issue: You have matter-antimatter energy for the "star-drive", (reactor) fuel for the impulse drive (later established to be nuclear fusion) and - battery power.

I believe "battery power" here is the equivalent of a nuclear fission reactor. After all, these "atomic matter piles" mentioned in "Court-Martial" have to mean something.

Albertese September 21 2012 01:14 AM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
But the shuttlecraft is very small. And we see almost all of it's insides. Where would such a reactor be? Maybe in the nacelles, but it's gotta be a teeny tiny affair. I suppose we have no specific idea of how big or small such a device would have to be, but, for my money, a really good battery would be fine. Recharge it when it lands. Are we really saying that somewhere on this little box there is a heavily shielded highly radioactive doohicky that keeps it's electricity going? I dunno...


P.S. Also in ST4 Spock claims that nuclear fission was outmoded by his time, describing 20th Century Earth fission technologies as "dubious flirtation." I don't think that's the answer...

MOSUGOJI September 21 2012 02:19 AM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
Actually there is a line of dialogue from Scotty stating something to the effect that he can adjust the reactor to use a substitute fuel supply. And that is why they drained the phasers. So shuttles do have a reactor as a power source. The batteries are probably for a backup source and for ignition as Scotty states.

blssdwlf September 21 2012 03:31 AM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
That's right about the reactor.

Scott says that they have a main reactor.
SCOTT: I can adjust the main reactor to function with a substitute fuel supply.
SPOCK: That's all very well, but we don't have a substitute supply.
SCOTT: Aye, we do. Our phasers. I can adapt them and use their energy. It'll take time, but it's possible.
But I wonder if it was more like the TOS Enterprise's power system where it doesn't generate power but creates fuel for the propulsion pods.

Notice that they lost all their fuel and resort to draining the phasers...
SCOTT: One of the lines gave. The strain of coming through the atmosphere and the added load when we tried to bypass. Yes, that's done it. We have no fuel.
but later on they now have fuel to lift off and the fuel can be ignited so the phaser energy isn't used as simple energy but was converted also into some type of fuel.
SCOTT: He jettisoned the fuel and ignited it.

And here are the lines regarding the batteries being necessary for ignition. I'm presuming it's for the engines (not the reactor).
SPOCK: Mister Scott, how much power do we have left in the ship's batteries?
SCOTT: I daren't use any more. Not and be sure of ignition.

Timo September 21 2012 08:56 AM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
Add to this that the shuttles of this type are quoted as having "ion engine power", in "The Menagerie".

(Or perhaps they have "duranium metal shell, ion engine, power-", as the list of qualities given by the computer is cut short by Spock at that point. But let's say there's an exotic power source aboard called an ion engine.)

We might argue that the shuttle is a miniature starship in every respect but one: it has batteries for general utility needs (perhaps including weapons and shields) plus igniting or otherwise tending for the other power systems; an impulse system providing takeoff thrust and utilizing fluid fuel (probably liquid, but only under pressure, as its leakage did not result in a puddle) as its energy source; and a warp system providing FTL capabilities - but in this case with "ion power" rather than "dilithium-regulated antimatter annihilation"!

Yes, yes, we know that polaric ion testing is banned, but ion drives still make Scotty's heart beat faster; perhaps ion power is fine for shuttlecraft, and only blows up entire civilizations when scaled up to starship or planetary power grid scale?

This way, the shuttle could make do without large fuel tanks, as the fluid energy source would only be needed for the rare takeoff and landing. The main drive would be a separate system. And although Spock claims that there's almost nothing they can dump and still retain takeoff ability, he wouldn't be considering dumping the space drive because unbolting it would be beyond their capabilities...

Now, perhaps they had lost most of their fuel, and had too little to fire up the takeoff engines, but still enough (uselessly sitting in the tanks) to create the flare. But they could use an alternate means of takeoff, sidestepping the takeoff engines altogether: they could feed raw energy into the space drive (let's just call it warp drive even if they never utter the words in TOS) and use its supposed gravity-negating properties to shoot up to the sky.

So, now Scotty can adjust the "main reactor" to use a substitute source of energy, even though he cannot do that with the takeoff engines. Phasers can provide the same format of power as the ion reactor (whose regular means of providing power may be knocked out because of all the ionic interference around). And thus they fly into space without using any of their regular takeoff fuel, meaning Spock is free to use that for making the flare. (And although he is not planning on using it for that purpose, he can't purge all of it to save weight, either - he can merely equalize pressure with the outside atmosphere, meaning a bit of that fluid is still left in the tanks for later use.)

It doesn't cover all the bases - but even if the corner of third base is left peeking a bit from under the pile of technobabble, I think it may do.

Timo Saloniemi

blssdwlf September 21 2012 01:08 PM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
Well, let's throw another bit into the game. From "Metamorphosis" we also have the entity traveling at warp speed "staying right" with the shuttle.
SPOCK: Heading directly toward us at warp speed.
KIRK: Staying right with us. Sensor readings, Mister Spock.
And later on, they're looking for antimatter trail from the shuttle:
UHURA: Mister Scott. Computer central reports that we're coming up on the co-ordinates of the last established position of the shuttlecraft.
SCOTT: Thank you, Lieutenant.
SULU: Steady. No, Mister Scott, bearing three ten mark thirty five just cleared. No antimatter residue.
SCOTT: All scanners, spherical sweep. Range, maximum. They'll have to pick it up.
UHURA: If the shuttlecraft powered away, Mister Scott, but if it were just towed?
SCOTT: There'd still be traces of residual matter floating around, Lieutenant.
SULU: Bearing two ten mark forty. Strong particle concentration. We're on it, Mister Scott.
I'd like to think that the shuttlecraft represents earlier versions of TOS FTL systems before the introduction of Lithium/Dilithium that gave them "regenerative power". But also that in TOS, a variety of engines were FTL capable ranging from the warp engine, hyperdrive and ion engine. It doesn't match with TNG and later productions, but I don't put the two continuities (universes) as one so their technology trees could be fairly different, IMHO.

Edit: @Timo - the catch with "residual" fuel being used at the end is that Scotty was pretty absolute in saying "We have no fuel". It looked like to me that during that adaptation process, new fuel was generated, IMO.

Timo September 21 2012 02:48 PM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
But if the fuel is something that leaks out from the pipes in gaseous form, then it quite plausibly follows that some of it will remain in the tanks in unusable, inaccessible quantities (just like it's impossible to actually empty a bottle of nitrogen through a valve - at best, you can bring it to atmospheric pressure). Until the shuttle reaches vacuum, that is.

Most of the modern spacecraft have a special system for driving out the last drops or whiffs of fuel/propellant (a separate purging gas, a piston or diaphragm, whatever). Starfleet engineers might not bother with such pennywise things.


SULU: Steady. No, Mister Scott, bearing three ten mark thirty five just cleared. No antimatter residue.
SCOTT: All scanners, spherical sweep. Range, maximum. They'll have to pick it up.
UHURA: If the shuttlecraft powered away, Mister Scott, but if it were just towed?
SCOTT: There'd still be traces of residual matter floating around, Lieutenant.
This is intriguing. Why isn't there residual matter floating around?

I mean, the shuttle was towed away, as far as we can tell. The shuttle also arrived at these coordinates under its own power. If it is natural for a shuttle to create an antimatter residue trail when traveling under power, then there should be residue in evidence right there, and not merely at "bearing 210.40".

It almost seems we are supposed to think that antimatter residue is only associated with calamities, not with normal operations. That is, there would be residue there if the shuttle met an immediate grisly fate, or fell prey to a conventional attack and either limped away under power or was towed away - but not if it just sailed on. Scotty would still have to do the residue scan under this scenario, because an undamaged shuttle traveling under power but failing to transmit anything would be impossible to locate - Scotty's only "hope" lies in searching for a damaged craft.


ranging from the warp engine, hyperdrive and ion engine
None of the dialogue necessitates these being different things, though. The shuttles just get their FTL engine power from ions ("ion engine power"), while the ships get it from antimatter. It would require pretty explicit dialogue to drive a wedge between "conventional" warp drives and the drive that moves the shuttles at FTL, seeing how both rely on obvious warp nacelles, later in TNG era graphics seen housing obvious warp coils.

In my personal perverseverse, this "ion engine power" thing ties directly not just to the "ion propulsion" of the Eymorg but also to the "polaric ion" thing from VOY, and to the "cascade ion drive" from Dave Stern's ENT novels. But it also relates to antimatter: it's just that these polaric ion cascades are an alternate means of regulating annihilation, a method (unsuccessfully) competing with dilithium. If the regulation fails (as it often does in large scale applications), it's kaboom time, for obvious reasons.

A related idea would be that in the conversion of annihilation energies, dilithium is a brute "shortcut" such as those used in getting electricity out of a chemical battery today, but the polaric ion cascade is akin to the electron cascades used by nature in getting electricity out of a chemical battery - more gently and more efficiently. It's just that brute systems can be overengineered to cope with overloads; the gentle cascade is intolerant of excess.

Timo Saloniemi

blssdwlf September 21 2012 05:23 PM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
As to the reason in "Metamorphosis" that there is no trail is that the entity disabled the propulsions systems and that created an overload to the shuttle power systems forcing them to cut all power.

KIRK: ..Building overload. Cut all power relays.

I suppose in hindsight, Kirk could of opened up one of the fuel valves and left a trail to follow. Then again, he might have thought that they needed to keep the fuel to escape from wherever they end up.

As far as differentiation from warp drive goes, I see no reason why the shuttle FTL system needs to be called Warp Drive. We know the nacelle equipped Romulan warbird from "Balance of Terror" has "simple impulse" and it was plenty capable of making that interstellar journey. For all we know, Impulse Engines and Ion Engines have nacelles as features for going FTL... It works just fine for TOS continuity. But for TNG's dilithium-regulated antimatter engines, that's a different continuity and I'd argue that most or all of the events in TOS didn't occur in TNG other than the basic concepts of their being the crew of the Enterprise under Captain Kirk, IMHO.

Patrickivan September 21 2012 07:47 PM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
The warp nacelles or power pods, were the intention for the ship- why wouldn't they also be the a/am reactors for the shuttle?

So far, having plugged in key word searches going through every script, there's no evidence to suggest that they aren't (the nacelles being the main power source) on the ship- If so, then they can be so on the shuttle as well.

blssdwlf September 22 2012 03:27 AM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
There is nothing to prevent TOS "ion engine power" shuttles to run on a matter/antimatter reactor. In TOS, they've said "warp engine power" at least once ("The Changeling") and we know it's from the dilithium + matter-antimatter engines/reactor. And since there was some FTL variety in TOS, warp drive isn't the only way to go FTL, IMHO.

Robert Comsol September 22 2012 11:50 PM

ion engine power
Though I don't yet know how you guys feel about bringing in an idea from another fictional universe, "ion engine" is an issue for Star Wars fans, too.

As a form of propulsion it sucks (because of the energy you have to invest to accelerate the exhaust particles), you can only operate it in the vacuum of space and Darth Vader's long-range "Twin Ion Engine" fighter obviously just doesn't have two but four sublight propulsion engines.

Again, I think we are looking at a colloquialism that refers to a nuclear fusion reactor that foremost produces energy (like a "steam engine" produces the mechanical energy to propel a locomotive) and "ions" is what it's working with.

In theoretical propulsion considerations the "fusion rocket" would be best as the particle exhaust velocity is superior to all the others "known" to our science. Simply put it's a fusion reactor with an exhaust nozzle.

If you could put such a fusion reactor into a shuttlecraft you'd always be facing a dilemma: Use the energy for antigrav liftoff and/or FTL drive or use it as a conventional form of propulsion for sublight thrust.

TOS has a great illustration of that dilemma in "Balance of Terror". The Romulan commander always has to decide whether to use his "fuel" to produce energy for the cloaking device or to use it for propulsion thrust.


Timo September 23 2012 09:37 AM

Re: TOS shuttle power sources.
It's a bit dubious whether the standard mode of TOS shuttle sublight propulsion would involve rockets at all. Chiefly, if the standard rocket flame is invisible, it would be quite difficult for Spock to make it visible without special preparations. "Dumping fuel into the flame" is fine and well as such, but as said, there is basically no fuel left for the trick... Will the tiny amount really make a difference?


Again, I think we are looking at a colloquialism that refers to a nuclear fusion reactor that foremost produces energy
Strongly agreed.


TOS has a great illustration of that dilemma in "Balance of Terror". The Romulan commander always has to decide whether to use his "fuel" to produce energy for the cloaking device or to use it for propulsion thrust.
Not quite so strongly agreed. The Commander doesn't really have a choice: the ship grows visible against his will as power wanes. But the two systems competing for the power are not specified to be drive and cloak. Rather, it seems that it's the weapon that eats power and consumes fuel so that any other systems are compromised, both temporarily and in the long term... Use of weapon results in dropping of cloak and cessation of movement, actions that the Commander would not willingly take unless the shortcomings of the technology thus dictated. But combined invisibility and movement are possible throughout the episode.

Agreed on the general sentiment that technology shortcomings that force the heroes or villains to choose are excellent for drama.

Timo Saloniemi

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