[Here's my theory of warp drive and the reactor configuration in TOS: <snip>
Interesting theories. Our notions are not incompatible. I've made the assumption at some point that the "energizers" are either the same thing as, or a component of, the various "EPS manifold"s and such mentioned in TNG-era Trek.
To my thinking, having a reactor in the hull is considered an acceptable risk, and can have advantages in that it is more directly accessible for monitoring and maintenance. In ENT, we had a fairly straightforward reactor mated to a rather complicated "plasma accelerator" system. I assume the reason for the accelerator is that the reactor wasn't efficient enough to produce rich enough plasma to power the engines.
By TOS, the power requirements evolved to the point that a two-stage reaction is required. My reasoning for making the hull-side reactor smaller is that the nacelles themselves always seem to be more powerful/important than anything in the hull. The TOS reactor setup would essentially be an inefficient version of the later TMP setup; a very unfocused "swirl."
I think I'm onboard with the nacelle reactors ceasing to exist for TMP-era tech, using the intermix swirl as a replacement for the need for them. Then, the second-stage supercharger of Excelsior
can kind of be a throwback to this. (I'm increasingly more onboard with just ignoring the TNG-style core in TUC and just going with the swirl chamber for Excelsior
I think the "collider" style reactor (as Eddie
so keenly called it) is the natural evolution of this chain; an increasingly simplified, highly efficient high-energy reactor setup.
Regarding the issue of plasma being pumped into the coils, it's my thought that it was probably always this way. The coils probably had channels in them to allow plasma to flow inside, with the coils somehow absorbing the energy directly from them and "evaporating" the plasma in the process. I suspect that the ship's main energizers also sort of evaporate some plasma, but I suspect that the ship's power needs are generally such that the main energizers merely siphon some power from the warp plasma as it passes through the manifolds on its way to the nacelles. To my thinking, this is all the more reason to have the ship's plasma manifolds adjacent to the power transfer conduits to the nacelles.
Crazy Eddie wrote:
This is a slight derail, but I'm finally getting around to this subject, and it kind of starts with the revelation that Starfleet basically has transwarp drive or something like it as early as 2259 in the Abrams timeline. Figured I'd bounce this off you before I ran with it, though:
My conclusion is that Starfleet ALWAYS had transwarp drive, having obtained it from the Xindi in the 22nd century; the problem is, trans-warp drives only work efficiently in certain regions of space (where it can work with a natural subspace vortex) but otherwise has to create an artificial one as it goes. Some solutions -- the Borg, for example -- create permanent artificial vortexes ahead of time, which cuts the hardware requirement but limits their use of transwarp to pre-defined navigation points along their network. Starfleet's drive method was to create those vortexes on the fly
so you wouldn't have to build the network ahead of time and you could travel wherever you wanted to go. The advantage with the Borg method is that those permanent vortexes are ALOT faster to move through and require very little specialized hardware to use; the disadvantage, of course, is that it takes hundreds of years to BUILD those conduits in the first place. For a race like the Borg, this isn't really much of a disadvantage, but for the Federation that's a long-term project they simply don't have the stomach for.
The first transwarp prototype was built in the 2190s as XCV-330 "Enterprise-II." That ship -- the fastest ever built by the Federation even to this day -- had twelve warp cores and was driven by a torroidal engine five kilometers in diameter. Smaller (and much MUCH slower) trans-warp engines developed later are still enormous and absurdly expensive; the single warp nacelle of the USS Kelvin cost more than any three conventional starships, and its warp core was a one-of-a-kind multi-chambered monstrosity that cost as much as a small space station.
"The Great Experiment" was Starfleet's effort to develop a trans-warp drive that could be powered by a normal
(i.e. "not insanely over-engineered") drive system, which could therefore be mass-produced into a whole fleet of ships instead of hand-crafted one at a time in a small number of immense "hot rod" vessels. Hence Scotty's incredulity: nobody really believes Excelsior's transwarp drive will ever work, because until now all the transwarp ships have been MONSTERS, with warp cores the size of office buildings and nacelles big enough to have their own zip codes. Those ships are so over-powered and so expensive that Starfleet completely stopped building them for a while, figuring that The Great Experiment was about to pay off soon and they could start putting transwarp engines on "normal" starships. Then Narada shot Kelvin to pieces, and Starfleet decided it couldn't afford to wait.
In that sense, the huge vertical/collider warp cores of the TNG era would be the logical consequence of the great experiment. The collider configuration is probably an efficient way of boosting power to the reaction without making the warp core unnecessarily huge or expensive (and so would not require, say, several tons
of dilithium to operate at full power). Even the intermix chambers of TMP seem to require a few hundred kilos of dilithium, but would never be able to handle the output needed for sustained (Federation-style) transwarp flight.
Just another spin on the idea that warp drive in the TNG era is basically normalized trans-warp. Which is another reason why the jump to warp in TNG actually looks like this
Sorry for the rant. I go back to lurking now.
You make sense there, sir... lots of sense. I really like your theory overall.
One thing I certainly think I might borrow from your notion is the idea that Starfleet may've been theorizing about transwarp for a very, very long time but that it was utterly unworkable until the late 23rd century, and the idea that part of the reason for calling it the "Great Experiment" was the skepticism surrounding that.
It also gives XCV-330 something better to do.