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Trek Tech Pass me the quantum flux regulator, will you?

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Old July 18 2008, 12:15 AM   #1
Wingsley
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Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

I got this idea from watching the 1980 NBC miniseries "Shogun", based on the James Clavell novel. If you remember the show, and the final chapter, Pilot-Major Blackthorne (Richard Chamberlain) tried to build a sailing ship from scratch after his own ship was lost in 1601 Japan.

Let's assume we are in the TOS or pre-TOS era and we're telling the story of the Constitution-class starship exploring deep space when a catastrophe occurs. Whether it was an accident, or a hostile encounter, or maybe the crew had to take their ship to its limits to carry out a mission, the ship is damaged severely. Maybe there was a systems failure, maybe an explosion. The ship's engines are damaged; she looses high warp capacity, as well as subspace radio and scanners. She is, for all intents and purposes, beached in a foreign land.

Can the crew repair the ship in deep space by themselves? What if the nacelles were damaged? In ENT, Archer and company kept the NX-01 barely together after having been shot full of holes. Did Constitution-class starships and their crews have the capacity to rebuild in deep space? Would "Where No Man Has Gone Before" indicate they could? What if there were no installations around?

I was thinking up a story called "Constitution", in which Kirk in the TOS/TAS era responded to a low-speed, low-energy subspace distress call (ENT "Regeneration") from the missing U.S.S. Constitution, which had been sent out to deep space as a finalized prototype over 20 years ago, and had been missing for at least 15. The Enterprise diverts beyond explored space to find the Constitution tooling along at Warp 2 (maybe less), badly damaged, no apparent radio contact or tracking scanners left, minimal power and life support, and Kirk and company board her to find the aging crew surviving an endless crisis of system failures, patchwork repairs, and scarcity of resources. The ship is not going to make it home as-is, and no quickie repair job will do it. The Constitution's crew improvised and scavenged inferior ores from asteroids to repair a ruptured nacelle and keep their starship moving, but recent patchworks failed and the nacelle reptured again, damaging the reactor and leaving the ship one heartbeat away from dropping out of warp and stranded in deep space. Without sufficient power to send out a high-power distress beacon, the crew managed a low-speed distress burst.

Scotty and Spock determine the Constitution is spaceworthy and fully salvageable. But her crew cannot survive indefinitely in deep space with exhausted resources. Scotty says the best solution would be to tow her to a repair base ("The Doomsday Machine", "The Paradise Syndrome"). Uhura signals Starfleet, and the eventual reply is that Starbase 27 could send an automated warptug with a fully manned and provisioned spacedock pod in tow, to rebuild the refit the Constitution on the spot, but Starfleet would not have the pod ready and mated to the warptug for at least 20 solar weeks. So Kirk is left with the inevitable decision: can the Enterprise undertake the salvage operation by themselves, get the Constitution fully repaired, and able to get underway? Spock and Scotty list the options:

1: Offload most or all of the Constitution's crew to the Enterprise, haul them to Starbase 27 (a significant diversion) at maximum warp, and leave the Constitution in deep space, unable to move, with either minimal crew, or repair party, aboard. This would strain the Enterprise's life support and leave a spaceworthy ship out on the frontier.

2: Offload the Constitution's entire crew to the Enterprise, take them to Starbase, and either abandon or scuttle a spaceworthy ship.

3: The Enterprise could wait there with the Constitution, possibly for months, for a proper spacedock to arrive via warptug.

4: Most risky: Enterprise could attempt to carry the Constitution piggy-back style, straining her warp engines to the critical point, to serve as an improvised tug to get the ship back to Starbase. It would take almost as long as waiting for the spacedock pod, and risk severe damage to both ships.

5: The Enterprise could separate its primary hull, use it as a command base to host repair crews and give the Constitution's crew some rest and rehab, while the Enterprise's stardrive section probes deeper in this region to gather the raw materials necessary and bring them back to refit the Constitution without a proper spacedock. This could take at least 2-3 solar months, but if done properly, Constitution could be fully re-energized and her crew exposed to the latest technology while rebuilding their ship. This would amount to modernizing the crew so they would not be out of time when the Constitution finally reached Starbase under her own power.

I would expect that if "The Cage" were any indication, replication technology may not have been as polished as it was during TOS, and the old Constitution may have had far less capacity to repair her damage on her own. I would also assume, with little to go on, that, to borrow a term from DS9, only the Main Engineering station in the stardrive section of the Enterprise would be equipped with "industrial replicator" technology capable of fabricating/rejuvinating needed parts for the repairs, so maybe Scotty would have to refit the saucer with this kind of heavy machinery before anyone could go anywhere, plus the saucer would have to accommodate shuttlecrafts and/or work bees for demolition and construction. It would also be interesting to consider if the stardrive section would be equipped to function on its own for deep space exploration and perhaps mining for bulk raw materials. (I'm assuming the only feasible way for repair/rebuilding operations on this scale to work would be to conserve energy by having industrial replication machinery that draws on raw materials (perhaps refined ore) to build hull components, etc.)

Does this make sense?
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Old July 18 2008, 01:52 AM   #2
SchwEnt
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

Interesting ideas. Reminds me of a similar theory I once read about the Constitution class (I'm thinking it was in one of the novels, can't remember which).

Of course 1960's idea of high tech was seen in TOS, with bulky monitors and knobby buttons and all sort of tech that really isn't so advanced now in our 21st century.
So how to account for 23rd century technology that looks dated now?

The idea was that a Consitution class ship and crew really will be where no man has gone before i.e. no bases, no re-supply, no spare parts, etc.

The crew might literally have to keep the ship together with their own hands,
or re-build it, with very limited resources (TOS replicators notwithstanding).

So rather than go all flashy high tech, keep with something more workmanlike that gets the job done and is easily repairable. Hence the tactile and bulky style of technology.
Something more rugged and fuctional, that can take a beating, and can be more
hands-on repaired if need be.

At least that's how I recall the idea.
Sounds like it would work for you.
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Old July 18 2008, 12:35 PM   #3
Timo
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

I think Diane Carey once rationalized the dated looks of the TOS ship that way. Darned if I remember which book it was, though. (Could have been the other Diane, too.)

I'd say that repairing the warp drive once it's as badly down as in "Paradise Syndrome" or the end of ENT S3 is something that can't be done, not without access to resources that amount to already having another starship built. The above scenario sounds plausible, then. However, I'd think life support could be restored by the resources of a fellow starship fairly simply and quickly, allowing our heroes to go for Option 6: leave the Constitution as is. She has done quite well for 20 years, so certainly she could continue to do so for 20 more weeks, with minimal life support repairs. Just stay sufficiently mum about it so that all sorts of scavengers won't flock to take advantage of the victimized ship.

Of course, one wonders how desperately Starfleet would want a 20-year old shipwreck back, from the technological point of view. Scuttling might not be a major loss, as the resources expended in repairs might be better used in building a more modern successor. Indeed, such a successor has no doubt already been built, as Starfleet can't have been counting on getting the lost ship back.

But no, I don't think a TOS heavy cruiser crew could rebuild their ship after major structural or power system damage, unless given a dockyard that can build ships from scratch. Yet yes, I think they could cobble together some sort of a low-warp starcraft if given the remains of a not-quite-crippled heavy cruiser and at least minimal dock resources. And yes, they could create a sublight spacecraft or survivable space habitat out of just the shipwreck.

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Old July 18 2008, 12:48 PM   #4
Santaman
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

Hmm, I think it all depends on one thing: available energy, if there's a few fusion reactors left to power equipment then I think it would be possible to repair the hull in such a way that it would be able to sustain lifesupport and the like, as for warpdrive, depends on how damaged the nacelles are, but even if few coils have been blasted to pieces in one nacelle then I imagine they could swap a few from the other nacelle to balance the whole thing out, would mean she would run slow and probably inneficient but still at some low warp speed, I imagine that the rest of the systems on board are very modular and that parts from a lower key system can be used to fix something more important, as for the rest, the Connie always seemed to be one of the most resilient designs ever, call me optimistic.
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Old July 18 2008, 03:01 PM   #5
Colonel Midnight
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

Well, in a way, you're ALWAYS rebuilding the ship -- since there's always something breaking down! Fact of life, unfortunately.

Now, if you're talking a Mass Casualty type situation (which I'm guessing you are from the start)... then it all depends on the tech you use, timeframe, etc. It's your story -- just run with it, basically.

Granted, I doubt if the crew could pull off a "Flight of the Phoenix" type maneuver, but you never know...

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Old July 18 2008, 03:43 PM   #6
FordSVT
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

It would depend on the available resources (including manpower) and access to power. With enough time and energy, everything but the most exotic composites found on a starship could probably be either replaced or substituted. You might never be able to get all of her systems back up and running, or have full weapon and engine functionality, but it might be enough. Then again, if most of your engineering team, for example, was wiped out in whatever catastrophe befell the ship, you'd be screwed.

You might have to manufacture your own parts, even your own construction machinery, and it might take years and years of work.

There's one thing no one here has mentioned. There would come a point were, given enough damage to the original ship, the best option might be to build a new one from the scavenged parts of the old. If you're just trying to get off the planet and get the hell home with your crew, it might be the better option.
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Old July 18 2008, 05:49 PM   #7
JoeZhang
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

Timo wrote: View Post
I think Diane Carey once rationalized the dated looks of the TOS ship that way. Darned if I remember which book it was, though. (Could have been the other Diane, too.)

Are you thinking maybe of this? where Uhura is asked why the Enterprise doesn't have tiny self-managing quantum circuits?


"Tell me, Lieutenant," she said carefully as she connected a simulator lead to the four-gate and ran a test signal through it,

"have you ever seen a twenty-year-old cruisees circuit complex after it's been hit by a Klingon broad-beam disruptor while traveling at warp seven?" The telltale on the simulator lead glowed green. Uhura had finished the circuit.

"Cruisers can't go at warp seven," Abranand said carefully, as if he were expecting a trick question. "Well, this ship can, mister. And a disruptor blast that connects can drop it out of warp so fast that any quantum switches that just happen to be tunneling at the microsecond we hit normal space are liable to pop back into existence three meters from where they should be."

Uhura stood up from her station and hefted the number-ten board in her hand. "You know where that leaves you?" Abranand shook his head. "Sitting around waiting for the Klingons with a circuit complex full of more holes than a light sail in the Coal Sack."
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Old July 18 2008, 05:55 PM   #8
JM1776
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

Another consideration: Would it be possible to cobble together construction facilities by further cannibalizing the available resources? If much of your equipment could be reconfigured as an industrial replicator, and you had sufficient energy to power it, could one not stockpile necessary components, reassemble what you'd taken apart and then commence reconstruction?

Could one not fashion at least a rudimentary spacedock facility by, say, hollowing out an asteroid with phasers (even hand, pistol and rifle phasers, if necessary), employing a couple of shield generators for redundant protection against the vacuum of space, then using ship's life support to pump heat and air into the enclosed area created? Such would make work on the vessel's exterior a lot faster and easier, I would think, since one could dispense with spacesuits.
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Old July 18 2008, 05:58 PM   #9
Wingsley
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

^^ Memory Prime. That's what I remember!
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Old July 18 2008, 09:48 PM   #10
Ronald Held
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

How much energy is available? What are your local resources both technical and minerallogical? How much and waht parts need to be repaired?
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Old July 18 2008, 10:31 PM   #11
Wingsley
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

Constitution:
I'm assuming that at least one nacelle suffered serious damage, but still intact and both retained the capacity for minimal warp; the reactor and attached components were severely damaged but still able to produce minimal warp. Saucer section and other secondary hull sections intact. The crew is aging but with few exceptions are alive and well. Ship definitely salvageable. (I am considering the possibility that replication technology may still have been crude when the Constitution launched; the crew may not have had the capacity to repair the ship as the TOS Enterprise would. I'm also considering the possibility that Pike's remarks in his cabin about being responsible for only 207 lives suggested that earlier starships had bulkier equipment on-board, which limited the crew size, but I'm still not conclusive on that.)

Enterprise:
Fully functional, no damage, crew of 430, on a deep space exploratory run when she receives Constitution's message.
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Old July 19 2008, 02:10 AM   #12
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

Find a planet with a sheet-metal fabrication shop. Sheet-metal mechanics are latter-day blacksmiths they (we) can fix damn near anything including 20-year obsolete starships.
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Old July 19 2008, 02:42 AM   #13
snap
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

Was there not a set of books were the Enterprise led a convoy to a new system called Belle Tera and the Frigate that stayed to protect the settelers was badly damaged so they cobbled together what was left of that ship and the convoy ships and called it Challenger?
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Old July 19 2008, 10:24 AM   #14
Santaman
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

Wingsley wrote: View Post
Constitution:
I'm assuming that at least one nacelle suffered serious damage, but still intact and both retained the capacity for minimal warp; the reactor and attached components were severely damaged but still able to produce minimal warp. Saucer section and other secondary hull sections intact. The crew is aging but with few exceptions are alive and well. Ship definitely salvageable. (I am considering the possibility that replication technology may still have been crude when the Constitution launched; the crew may not have had the capacity to repair the ship as the TOS Enterprise would. I'm also considering the possibility that Pike's remarks in his cabin about being responsible for only 207 lives suggested that earlier starships had bulkier equipment on-board, which limited the crew size, but I'm still not conclusive on that.)

Enterprise:
Fully functional, no damage, crew of 430, on a deep space exploratory run when she receives Constitution's message.
Reading this scenario I expect Scotty to repair the hull damage and propulsive systems within the month, as for the damaged nacelle, I don't know if its possible to make warpcoils from scratch but besides that it doesn't sound like anything too difficult to pull off, everything damaged other then the coils should not be a problem to fix since Scott has the entire resources, man power and energyfrom the Enterprise at his disposal.
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Old August 10 2008, 12:47 AM   #15
AlxxlA
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Re: Could a Connie crew rebuild their ship?

I think that the best solution to this problem would be for the Enterprise to tow the Constitution with a tractor beam. If they don't have enough power, they could augment the warp drive with the reactor, or nacelles, from the Constitution. Even if they can only manage low impulse velocity, it would reduce the time it would take to intercept the tug.
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