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Old July 16 2011, 11:05 PM   #1
YARN
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Saucer Proportion Matters

What is the purpose of the primary hull?

It is the primary section of the ship (hence the name). The rest of the ship (secondary hull and nacelles) is basically there to move the primary hull around.

The Enterprise D is a big Starship and so has a very large saucer section. This makes sense. The main business of the ship (people in space) is conducted in the primary hull.

I think a missing aspect of a lot of freewheeling Starship design is a sense of proportion between the parts.

There is a lot of talk about rules for numbers of nacelles, where they may be placed, etc., but I think simple proportion informed by a sense of basic purpose would help balance fan designs a lot more.
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Old July 17 2011, 12:42 AM   #2
Wingsley
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

Thank you for starting this thread.

As to your question about the "purpose" of the "primary hull"/saucer shape, I would suppose that, in-universe, starship designers and builders found the saucer shape to be useful and practical as a "habitat hull" concept, that is, a starship's primary purpose is going to be to house and carry a crew to distant destinations and the designers/builders apparently settled on the saucer shape as a practical (and, perhaps "warp dynamic" and/or planet-landable) means of fitting that primary habitat into the technical conventions of starship design.

In terms of Hollywood mentality, there was an interesting discussion about how Matt Jefferies arrived at the "distinct shape" of the Enterprise recently in the TrekBBS Tech forum that you may find interesting.

If I understand where you're coming from correctly, this kind of philosophical approach is probably long overdue.

Prior to his death, Mr. Roddenberry promulgated an elaborate set of rules (some say he pulled said rules out of his posterior) for starship design. Among them were the number and orientation of the ship's warp nacelles. While those rules were clearly intended to "invalidate" the even-then-growing body of alternative starship designs (FJ's tri-nacelled Federation-class "dreadnought" starship among them), and have since been broken even by the studio (not to mention a backlash in fan-based designs), perhaps it is long overdue to step outside of the fan-based orthodoxy and re-examine ship design philosophy.

Take the notion of "dreadnought" design, for instance...

1: FJ unwittingly led a movement of fan-based design that has flowered families of tri-nacelled, super-sized-saucered, multi-dished, covered with phaser banks starships that all seem intended to be the "ultimate bad ass" inflated outgrowths of the Constitution-class. From my standpoint, the Constitution-class is the dreadnought. The Federation supposedly doesn't believe in warships anyway.

2: The only dedicated class of Federation warships we ever saw was personified by Sisko's prototype Defiant in DS9. (And maybe the Prometheus in VOY.) Neither of these ships fit the uber-huge stereotype that FJ started. And Sisko's Defiant seemed to take the concept in the opposite direction by making the warship concept into a small destroyer-type unihull shape. So maybe instead of uber-fat, tri-nacelled battleships, a Federation in need to warships would turn to heavily armed and armored destroyers instead. Such mini-starships would supposedly be easier to build and maintain due to their simpler shape and relatively small size, and probably much easier to mothball or decommission.

3: After reviewing Forbin's recent Themistocles kitbash thread in this forum, I began to wonder what a TOS-era prototype (or limited-production) battlecruiser would look like if you set aside the FJ "dreadnought" orthodoxy. Let's assume that one of the ships mentioned but unseen in TOS was in fact, not a Constitution-class starship but perhaps a rare battelcruiser/battleship instead. How 'bout the destroyed Intrepid in "The Immunity Syndrome"? Apparently a Vulcan-crewed ship of 400 souls, what would such a ship look like if we assume, for sake of argument, that she was not Connie? What if the Vulcans came up with a very different, unorthodox design? I'm not saying that Intrepid would have to look totally unfamiliar, like the Suurrok-class Vulcan ship seen in ENT, but maybe taking the basic parts of Federation starships and applying them unconventionally.

Maybe the first thing we would do away with is the familiar saucer. Instead, let's make the "primary hull" a vaguely missile shape, very loosely based on the Suurok. Here's an idea: take the odd-shaped secondary hull from FJ's Federation-class, eliminate the aft dish and embed a small sphere on the tip instead. Now make the back of that hull the front of the ship. The nacelles would have to be re-oriented backwards, of course. Now, imagine this design with no saucer, no third nacelle, and we'll really set it apart by fattening the "primary hull" to make it even wider. the fatter aft tip (the front of FJ's Federation secondary hull) would have two shuttlecraft hangars instead of one. And there would be a third hangar-bay amidships from the belly.

This would make a Vulcan-designed, limited-production warship very different from what we've seen in fan circles. Conceptually, this battlecruiser design would be at least as powerful in combat as a Connie and yet not intended to be the ultimate kick-ass ship (at least, not more so than Sisko's Defiant in the DS9 era).

And to give our new battlecruiser a more combat-oriented look, we would orient the nacelles, Phoenix-style, so the exposed parts would all be inboard, and we'd beef up the armor on the nacelles so they could take direct hits and still keep going.
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Old July 17 2011, 02:20 AM   #3
YARN
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

Wingsley wrote: View Post
Maybe the first thing we would do away with is the familiar saucer.
In a lot of cases, yes. Absolutely. You have to ask why that saucer is there in the first place. If you are building a dedicated warship, why simply glue Connie-style saucer onto your design?

There is a nice concept for a single-nacelle destroyer (the coastguard frigate) that has appeared on this site which preserves a saucer shape, even though the saucer is so thin that no one could inhabit this section. Basically, it's a wing/saucer (more like an aftermarket spoiler on a Honda) that is serving as a glorified strut to support oversized phase cannons.
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Old July 17 2011, 04:33 AM   #4
Wingsley
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

I suppose if you wanted to look at starship design from a purely military perspective, saucer configurations could be said to offer an unfavorable profile. If an enemy were to shoot at a saucer from "topside" or "belly", the saucer would present an easier target to hit. (Wasn't this what happened over Khitomer in TMP6?) So obviously most Federation starships are not designed to be warships. (Strangely, the aft wing-hull of a Klingon warship could also be considered a bad profile from those directions.)
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Old July 17 2011, 05:54 AM   #5
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

But no matter how you design a spaceship - or any vehicle for that matter - there's pretty much always going to be at least one perspective that gives an enemy a big target to shoot at. A saucer is no better than a rectangle or a triangle. Changing the orientation only changes which direction an enemy needs to attack from. And no, a globe doesn't solve the problem because now every view is the same.
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Old July 17 2011, 06:33 AM   #6
sojourner
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

But the globe gives you more internal volume for the same profile, so in essence, it is better.
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Old July 17 2011, 06:57 AM   #7
Maverisms
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

Yeah, a globe is the ultimate space fighting vessel because it presents the same target from all aspect, provided maximum coverage for the largest number of weapon mounts and encloses the most volume for the least material.

That said, when you are engaging the enemy from up to 3,000,000 kilometer away, what profile your ship presents is kinda moot. (That is to say, if they can hit your wide aspect from that far out they can hit your narrow aspect too).

It is usually a mistake to try to apply modern tactical thinking to futuristic scenarios that someone made up for television. You end asking questions like "why don't they engage for max range?" when the answer is "It wouldn't look good on screen."

The first question of starship design should be "Does this look good?" The second question should be "does this look like it can do what I want it to do?" Both of those should be answered.

After that, other question should be applied, but they aren't yes or now questions. Things like; "how do I justify this design?" There is often a trend toward MOAR FIREPOWER. I've seen some down right beautiful designs treated as federation warships. Many are better suited for something else, at least in terms of what the Federation is supposed to be.

Also, we don't see enough exploration of what other Fed members might contribute to the Starfleet design. Before ENT, this was okay, but now it's been established that classic "Enterprise" hull is a human thing.

I think one thing we don't see enough of in Trek is system defense ships. Realistically, there'e be lots (thought borg incursions and dominion wars tend to suggest they don't exist...then again, neither do all of the uber warships people make up). It would be an interesting exercise to envision how the various polities design such ships.

Sisko stated Defiant was officially classed as an escort, but was far more than that. It begs the question "what does a Fed escort normally look like?" (I suspect they have more space devoted to science.
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Old July 17 2011, 10:17 AM   #8
YARN
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

Ziz wrote: View Post
But no matter how you design a spaceship - or any vehicle for that matter - there's pretty much always going to be at least one perspective that gives an enemy a big target to shoot at. A saucer is no better than a rectangle or a triangle. Changing the orientation only changes which direction an enemy needs to attack from. And no, a globe doesn't solve the problem because now every view is the same.
Google an ortho of an old Huey Cobra. They're pretty thick in a side view, but skinny when viewed from the front. The point of the design was to create a gunship which presented a small surface area from the front.

If a starship, for example, has a preferred angle of attack, there may be geometries (apart from a sphere) which would benefit that angle.
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Old July 17 2011, 02:41 PM   #9
Maverisms
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

I'll have to check with my father about this, but I'm pretty sure the forward aspect of the AH-1 was a result of the aircraft's mission requirements, and not a defensive measure. The AH-1 had to be as fast or faster than the UH-1 while carrying a crap load of armament. The Weapons Systems Officer needed a maximized field of view to employ the turret mounted gun, thus leading to seating in front of, rather than beside the pilot. Once the fore and aft configuration was settled on, there was really no reason for the aircraft to be wider than it was. More air frame is just more weight it has to carry.

The AH-1 was a "stopgap" measure to fill the hole left by the failed AH-56, but the gross shape of the aircraft was common to most of the demonstrators that came before it. That combined with the fact that modern attack helicopter designs are rather a bit wider suggest to me that presenting a narrow target wasn't one of the main concerns in the aircraft's development.

But again, I'll have to check with my dad. He flew and supported the thing for 22 years, so I'm betting he'll know.
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Old July 17 2011, 03:34 PM   #10
Ziz
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

YARN wrote: View Post
Ziz wrote: View Post
But no matter how you design a spaceship - or any vehicle for that matter - there's pretty much always going to be at least one perspective that gives an enemy a big target to shoot at. A saucer is no better than a rectangle or a triangle. Changing the orientation only changes which direction an enemy needs to attack from. And no, a globe doesn't solve the problem because now every view is the same.
Google an ortho of an old Huey Cobra. They're pretty thick in a side view, but skinny when viewed from the front. The point of the design was to create a gunship which presented a small surface area from the front.

If a starship, for example, has a preferred angle of attack, there may be geometries (apart from a sphere) which would benefit that angle.
Right. The point is that you're never going to be able to create a design that has NO "easy target" view from some direction, at least not without violating some laws of physics.
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Old July 17 2011, 07:25 PM   #11
Cary L. Brown
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

Maverisms wrote: View Post
I'll have to check with my father about this, but I'm pretty sure the forward aspect of the AH-1 was a result of the aircraft's mission requirements, and not a defensive measure.
Untrue. The Cobra (I've sat in the front seat of those in the past... even got to take the stick on a couple of occasions!) and the Apache were both designed as they were to provide minimal target signature along the direction of transit. Both were designed to be as likely to engage enemy as possible while as unlikely to be engaged as possible.

This was ABSOLUTELY a "defensive measure." Similarly, the engine exhausts (moreso for the Apache than the Cobra, granted) were given external cooling elements and were vectored in unusual manners in order to further reduce the likelihood of being targeted.

The point of an attack helicopter is to engage and destroy the enemy before the enemy gets the chance to engage them.
The AH-1 had to be as fast or faster than the UH-1 while carrying a crap load of armament.
You might want to look at the HIND, then... or any of the other "Warsaw Pact" attack helicopter designs. The Russians were able to develop very effective attack helicopters which were as fast, or faster, than their US counterparts. But the US helicopters would normally win in any engagement, because they'd be able to target the WSP craft prior to being targeted.
The Weapons Systems Officer needed a maximized field of view to employ the turret mounted gun, thus leading to seating in front of, rather than beside the pilot.
Not so much. Yes, the IHADSS targeting system is a "field of view" system. But this is not the main weapons system of either the Cobra or the Apache. Most of the workload of the WSO is spend using the targeting sensors in the nose, above the cannon.

Here's a passable reference for the sensor package on the Apache:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/apache-helicopter5.htm

The use of the IHADSS system for targeting the cannon is... less useful than you might think, at least without the lock-on capability (where IHADSS was used to initially acquire but not to hold a lock). Mainly, the IHADSS helmet monocle is useful for hitting "very soft" ground targets, only when the helicopter is basically in stationary hover mode.

A little info on IHADSS:

http://www.voodoo-world.cz/ah64/ihadss.html

(and yes, that is one HEAVY helmet!)

I'm not knocking it... just emphasizing that your perspective... that the gun is the main weapon... isn't really accurate. The rockets and AGMs are the primary weapons of any attack helicopter. The gun is really just the fall-back choice.
Once the fore and aft configuration was settled on, there was really no reason for the aircraft to be wider than it was. More air frame is just more weight it has to carry.
Nonsense. The longer and thinner the airframe, the more structure is required to carry the same internal volume. That's just basic geometry, not even "science" per-se.

This is a lesson that the Russians learned, in fact. Their wider aircraft were easier to target... even though they had the same basic "seating" configuration that US aircraft did.
The AH-1 was a "stopgap" measure to fill the hole left by the failed AH-56, but the gross shape of the aircraft was common to most of the demonstrators that came before it. That combined with the fact that modern attack helicopter designs are rather a bit wider suggest to me that presenting a narrow target wasn't one of the main concerns in the aircraft's development.
Again, the Apache was as narrow as the Cobra, relative to its length (I never got to fly in an Apache, but I sure wanted to!). The reason for the Apache's "knife-like" design was to reduce the frontal target aspect. This is what the trainers told the pilot trainees, and this is what the pilots told me.

I only got to fly front-seat in the Cobra (I was an intel guy and this was a great way to do aerial recon). But the cobra jockeys I flew with were pretty clear that the "knife" shape of their craft made them harder to hit, and that remains part of the original design specification.

Reduce the frontal area and you do three things:

1) Reduce frontal target aspect (radar, thermal, and geometric)

2) Decrease air resistance when in linear flight, and increase linear stability (the latter of which is NOT necessary a "good thing" when looking at helicopter combat!)

3) INCREASE the overall weight of the aircraft (increasing the mechanical structure per unit volume).

That's why passenger and transport aircraft (including troop transports) tend to be wide-bodied. They're easier to hit, and a bit slower, but they can carry a larger payload, because they are more mechanically efficient.
But again, I'll have to check with my dad. He flew and supported the thing for 22 years, so I'm betting he'll know.
Please do. By the way, if he happened to serve in the Aviation Brigade of an Army Infantry division, I'd love to know which one... who knows, I may have sat in his Cobra at some point!

Last edited by Cary L. Brown; July 17 2011 at 07:37 PM.
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Old July 17 2011, 10:10 PM   #12
Wingsley
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

Back to the issues YARN raised in the O.P.:

When Franz Joseph first came out with the original Tech Manual in 1975, I was fascinated by his alternative starship designs, and the notion of multiple starship classes with different configurations and uses. However, over the years, I have come to agree with Mr. Roddenberry's notion that Federation starships should use pairs of warp nacelles for FTL travel. A single pair of nacelles seems the best and most common arrangement. I'm not wild about odd numbers of nacelles as they disrupt a design's symmetry. (Although the "Starship Ajax" seems to execute the Saladin notion better than expected.)

There seems to be a fixation on proliferating the number of nacelles, then slapping the "dreadnought" label on ships to make them into warships. I don't see the point. If a starship design requires more warp power, and more nacelle is better, why not simply use a pair of longer nacelles? I prefer the logic that two longer nacelles, probably sheltered in heavier armor, would make for a more powerful ship than proliferating nacelles.

That's my 2¢, FWIW.
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Old July 17 2011, 10:40 PM   #13
YARN
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

Wingsley wrote: View Post
Back to the issues YARN raised in the O.P.:

When Franz Joseph first came out with the original Tech Manual in 1975, I was fascinated by his alternative starship designs, and the notion of multiple starship classes with different configurations and uses. However, over the years, I have come to agree with Mr. Roddenberry's notion that Federation starships should use pairs of warp nacelles for FTL travel. A single pair of nacelles seems the best and most common arrangement. I'm not wild about odd numbers of nacelles as they disrupt a design's symmetry. (Although the "Starship Ajax" seems to execute the Saladin notion better than expected.)

There seems to be a fixation on proliferating the number of nacelles, then slapping the "dreadnought" label on ships to make them into warships. I don't see the point. If a starship design requires more warp power, and more nacelle is better, why not simply use a pair of longer nacelles? I prefer the logic that two longer nacelles, probably sheltered in heavier armor, would make for a more powerful ship than proliferating nacelles.

That's my 2¢, FWIW.
I feel the same way. If you have a larger ship, you don't stick more small nacelles on it -- you design larger nacelles to go with it.

The two nacelle design also compliments the saucer-shaped primary hull in a way that gives it an implicit logic. That is, if the nacelles produce a sort bulging-pancake-shaped warp field (which is what we have, more or less, seen on screen),
then it would make sense to flatten the primary hull to fit in that area.

On the other hand, I could see lugging along an extra nacelle on a super-deep space mission like a sort of spare tire. In that case, however, I would imagine that one nacelle would be inactive - just like a spare tire.
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Old July 18 2011, 12:14 AM   #14
Wingsley
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

My thinking is similar to yours, but with one exception. I break with alot of STAR TREK orthodoxy on how starship warp nacelles work. I never liked the glimpse we get of the inside of the Enterprise-D's nacelle in 1994's "Eye of the Beholder". I don't see the nacelle as being hollow like that.

Instead of "carrying along a spare nacelle", I tend to focus on redundancy within each nacelle. I see a standard Starfleet nacelle as not just being one huge multi-part engine. If that were the case, all you would need is for part #7658B to break while out on a mission and the whole nacelle is worthless. I don't buy that. I see nacelles as housings for multiple self-contained engine modules. Each module has its own housing, complete with warp coils, and can operate either in combination with all the other housings in that same nacelle (like pistons in a V-8) or any one or pairing of them can work when some or most of them break down. So if you could see a cross-section of my nacelle concept, there would be a single string of spherical modules from the forward end to the aft, with the sphere in the aft exterior being the outer nacelle casing that cradles the last module in the chain. A starship needs at least one working module in each of two nacelles to go to warp. If Scotty fires up all the modules in both nacelles, he must be planning to sustain at least Warp 7 for a significant period of time (like in "Arena" or "I' Mudd") and using all the modules is like a RAID hard disk array: more reliable through redundancy.

So it may be theoretically possible for Scotty to have partially revived even the battered Constellation's "hopeless pile of junk", given enough time. All Scotty needed was to straighten out the nacelles and get at least one module partially working in each nacelle to get the ship to low warp speed.

Flipping this around, a Federation warship might use extra-long nacelles with more modules installed, and extra shielding on the nacelle hull and pylons to assure reliable warp speed and power in combat situations.
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Old July 18 2011, 02:32 AM   #15
Maverisms
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Re: Saucer Proportion Matters

My father was one of the first generation of attack helicopter pilots. Most of what I stated about the AH-1 came from him, with the exception of the reason for the airframe's front aspect, because I'd never asked.

So when he says something about the weapons system I tend to believe him. What he said, when I asked him about the AH-1 was that he did not know if the front aspect was designed as a defensive measure. But it was advertised as such.

The Bell Model 209 was not a military contract. Bell developed the system on its own while the AH-56 program was in progress. When the -56 was canceled, Bell marketed the -209 as quick solution. On of the selling points was that the crew stations and drive train were only 36 inches wide in the front aspect, presenting a target only 3 feet wide.

Without talking to someone from Bell who can confirm that this was design feature and not a bit of marketing spin, there no way to confirm the intent. But without countervailing evidence there's also no reason to deny it.

That said, the Apache doesn't not follow that logic. The Apache airframe is much more than 36" wide, and the aircraft's power plants stick out compared to the Cobra. Comparatively, the Apache is only five feet longer than the Cobra. This is not a counter point to support my point of view. Given the information om Bell's marketing, I was wrong about the Cobra. I'm just addressing follow on statements.

And WRT another follow on point re: the Mi-24 Hind, comparing the hind to to an attack helo isn't exactly apples to oranges but it is apples to pears. The Cobra is a dedicated attack platform. The Hind is an Gundship/troop transport combo. It is closer to the UH-1 in some senses than the AH-1, as the UH-1 is also a gunship/transport. But the Huey can't be both at once. The Hind can, or rather is. The Hind's speed is a result of it being designed to carry "cargo" and weapons at the same time, and the resulting airframe is, in my father's words, "huge," with a pair of powerplants equal to the task of pushing it along.

On Nacelles.

I'd submit that a starship's nacelles are designed as a series of discrete drive modules. Each coil in the nacelle is capable of generating a warp field on its own (Where "coil" refers to both the top and bottom assembles).

By firing the coils in sequence one generates a propulsive field, and the longer the sequence, the more efficient the design is at high speed. Damage to a coil can be corrected by disabling the matching coil on the other nacelle.
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