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Old September 21 2009, 02:34 PM   #39
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Re: Cleopatra's Needle - Design Proposals

Psion wrote: View Post
Agreed about the shuttle, but I viewed this design as a luxury yacht re-purposed for civilian exploration, and most contemporary luxury yachts have auxiliary craft for ship-to-shore operations.
In the book, I described it as a custom job designed for this particular mission. Its overall shape is part of that. I posted this passage in the Trek Literature thread that spun off this one (see the first post of this thread for the link), but I'll repost the relevant paragraph from The Buried Age here:
While Langford worked to recruit the personnel, Picard saw about hiring a suitable ship. With university backing, he arranged with Centauri III’s leading civilian spacecraft firm to provide a custom vessel, high-powered for maximum warp speed (considerably less than Starfleet’s fastest, but excellent for a civilian ship). Since the crew would be only a dozen or so, life-support needs were reduced, increasing the power available for velocity. The ship would also be sleek and narrow, like the rocketships of old, presenting a minimal cross section to oncoming space debris and radiation and reducing the power requirements for navigational deflection. For a Starfleet vessel, designed with the possibility of combat in mind, such a design was impractical since enemies could approach from any direction. But this craft was built purely for moving forward as fast as possible.
After all, the Federation is a culture that values exploration highly, considering that they assign it as a primary purpose of their space navy. So I'm sure there's just as active a culture of civilian exploration. Civilian ship contractors, therefore, would probably do a lot of exploration vessels and wouldn't need to repurpose other types of craft.

Which suggests, come to think of it, that maybe this is a customized version of a standard high-speed explorer or courier design.

Right now that lump on the back is really my 3D version of a smudge. I wasn't certain what to do back there and tacked on the shape (on version one) just to test if that made a little more sense than nothing at all. In both versions one and three, that volume is separated from the impulse engine. That isn't necessary, but if we connect them, the lower part will lose a shape that vaguely suggests a rocket nozzle and the Cleo3 will look less like a '50s scifi rocketship. For now, it's a 'smudge locker' until we change it or figure out what it does.
I like having it as a separate piece from the impulse engines. It gives it a distinctive look.

I blunted the nose and agree it looks better and is more functional, though at the cost of roughly 100 cubic meters of space. If you look at version three's 3-quarter top view imagine you can now see the navigational deflector peeking out underneath.
Yeah, but that space would've been kind of flat and skinny, not very useful except maybe for shielding or a tank of some sort. We're going for compactness and minimalism. Definitely not luxury.

Now I have to pin you down. When you say you want the tail narrower, do you want the impulse engines, the smudge locker, or both to be less wide? Personally, I want to narrow the smudge locker just so it evokes a rocket nozzle from more angles than the profile. And I'm assuming you mean narrower from port to starboard rather than dorsal to ventral.
Yes, narrower, not flatter. Basically, I'd like it if the whole rear half of the ship were tapered inward a bit more. I would be okay with leaving the impulse engines at their current width, though -- just taper the lower part more, so the rear view is more like an inverted trapezoid. Similar to the rear view of version 1, but not as narrow. Does that make sense?

Presently, this design is about (based on the crude airlock) 110 meters long, 22 meters wide, and 12 meters high, including warp nacelles. There's enough room to have two full-sized decks, plus equipment for most of that length, and a short 3rd deck (or the upper deck might have a section with high ceilings).
Whoa, that surprises me. That's substantially bigger than what I was estimating. This is a cramped, bare-bones 12-person ship, so I was thinking something maybe 2-3 times the size of a runabout. There's no need for a third deck.

Think of something along the lines of Serenity in the Firefly universe, but without the big cargo space and the big engines on the back and sides. Needle only contains a small bridge (barely more than a cockpit), a half-dozen compact double-bunk quarters, a lounge/mess, a fair-sized lab, a small medical bay, a tiny engineering space -- much like Serenity's interiors if you replaced the cargo bay with a lab. Serenity is 63 meters long, 40 wide, 18 high. We're talking about something of a similar length but flatter and narrower.

I hope that wouldn't require changing the proportions of Version 3 to give it more height, but then, the novel does describe the Needle's ceilings as relatively low -- enough to give clearance for a typical human, but requiring the taller Caldonian crew member to hunch over.

If we go so far as to detail this design, I'd be reluctant to mar the surface with lots of details. I'm a big fan of the Matt Jefferies school of starship exteriors, and want to minimize disruptions to the surface that aren't strictly functional.
I agree, but definitely the functional things need to be there -- maneuvering thrusters, maintenance hardpoints, that sort of thing.

If you agree with my suggestion that this design is a re-purposed luxury yacht, I'd also want to add features to suggest that ... huge bay windows, ornamentation, polished fixtures, etc.
As stated, I think that's the wrong way to go. This is a practical research craft, born and bred. It's more a submarine than a yacht. Windows should be compact. Maybe a bridge window, small portholes for six crew quarters, larger windows for the lounge, but not huge, because every space on this ship is compact.

(Small windows would also fit the '50s-rocketship aesthetic.)

As a result of this fun Sunday project, the good reviews on Amazon, and the excerpts on Google, I've decided to wander out to the bookstore this week and pick up The Buried Age. You've piqued my curiosity ... let's see where this goes!
Great! I hope you enjoy it. I think it's probably my best Trek novel (to date, at least).

EmperorKalan wrote: View Post
Might it have some sort of EVA pod? Something more akin to a Work Bee than to a shuttlepod or full-blown shuttle. To aid in external repairs, sample collections, etc. (manned and remote-control modes likely). Maybe an escape pod designed for double-duty?

Of course that's also something they might decide to cut to save space for other needs. I'd have to re-read TBA to recall if there were any scenes where they would certainly have used such a vehicle if they had one available.
There's nothing like that in the book. But you make a good point about the benefits of an EVA pod. Might be a good idea to have a small one, something that can fit two people if they're very friendly.

I still like the idea of a jettisonable antimatter pod at the very back, though. That would be the safest place for it, since the ship is designed with straight-ahead motion in mind; since any expected impacts would be of meteoroids or debris coming from the front rather than attacks from the side, the far aft section would be the most protected. It's also the farthest part from the crew, which is the best place to keep the dangerous stuff.
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Last edited by Christopher; September 21 2009 at 03:22 PM.
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