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Old November 10 2008, 03:02 AM   #25
Cary L. Brown
Rear Admiral
Location: Austin, Texas
Re: How do Starships stop?

Albertus wrote: View Post
This is one thing about Trek Tech that has always puzzled me. How do starships stop?

We know from the on-screen commands and actions that a ship at warp speed can translate to a sublight velocity within a few seconds. It is the slowing down from near light speed to a zero velocity that poses the problem.

The impulse engines all point in the wrong direction to be used for a retro-jet action and the Saucer and Battle section thrusters are used for station-keeping and fine maneuvering/attitude control of the ship.

I know that this aspect of Trek ships was considered and the idea of 'reverse thrusters' was mooted but the solution never went further than that throw-away idea and there is nothing in the Tech manual or elsewhere to suggest a method..

So, how does a Trek ship stop?

I have my own solution, but I am interested to hear other peoples ideas.

Well, for warp drive (which is a reactionless, field-based system) that's something that happens as part of the "warp engine magic" so I'm guessing you're uninterested in that, and are really just concerned with the newtonian-flight model.

There are two main ways of looking at impulse among fandom. Some folks think it's also a "field-effect" system (that's non-canon but it can be argued from a science basis) while others think it's purely a newtonian thrust-based system. And a few, like me, think it's a combination of the two... using newtonian thrust inside of a "space-time bubble."

Well, for the TOS ship, the only engines we ever saw were the nacelles and the impulse deck (and to be fair, that was never defined, on-screen, as the impulse deck, nor were the nacelles ever officially described on-screen as the warp engines). This was by intent... MJ was given the direction to not ever define the technology too closely, but just to make it "look and feel real, but beyond our current abilities."

With the TMP ship, however, you have a lot more detail added, and there were not two, not three, but FOUR different "propulsion subsystems" on the 1701(r).

1) Warp Drive (in the nacelles)
2) Impulse drive (at the aft end of the saucer)
3) Reaction Control system (for orientation control, not for significant translational movement)

Yes, it's that fourth one that people tend to forget (or to get confused with the RCS system or the impulse drive). But it was in the design.

If you have a model of the refit E, look closely at the spin of the secondary hull. There are four aft-facing cut-outs. Now, look at the forward edge, right adjacent to the deflector housing (on top). Four forward-facing cut-outs.

These are the thrusters... pure newtonian devices, essentially rocket engines used for low-speed manuevering. And this was always part of the design (remember in STVI... "thrusters ONLY, while in Spacedock")


1) perhaps it slows down purely using these.


2) perhaps it uses some vectoring "thrust reversers" on the impulse engines (either force-field based, or perhaps simply mechanical flaps we never saw).


3) Perhaps part of a planetary approach, which we never saw on-screen, involves the ship turning around and using its main impulse drive to slow itself (that's most likely in reality, I think, by the way)


4) Perhaps there are reverse engines behind panels someplace on the ship which we've also never seen (seems unlikely, but it's not impossible).


5) Perhaps they use some sort of field-effect "drag chute" which is somehow part of the subspace drive system (whether you think that's just warp drive, or if (like me) you think that subspace is also involved in "impulse" drive as its know in Treknology).
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