Cargo space

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Unicron, May 22, 2020.

  1. Unicron

    Unicron Boss Monster Mod Moderator

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    I was looking at some of my sci-fi RPG stuff recently, and was curious about the use of cargo space. There's kind of a running joke in Battletech, in that almost every warship has a large dedicated cargo bay even though it doesn't necessarily need it for its mission role. And while you could make up logical uses for it, like spare fuel or ammunition, the ship's requirements already factor those in. It's kind of like how many of Jackill's ships include an arboretum regardless of the ship's role. :D

    Ships in Starfinder with expansion bays also have cargo holds as a default option, with the ability to add mission specific bays (some of which take up multiple slots, like hangar bays for small craft).

    With regards to Trek, I can see some designs as being better suited to carry bulk cargo if necessary, like the Miranda family and maybe the Constellation design (which has a lot of bays in the saucer). FASA would occasionally have older designs being sold to civilian interests, after having any proprietary Starfleet equipment removed, so it's interesting to think of that as one option. I'm also of the mind that dedicated cargo vessels, like the transport/tug family, would still see some use to haul specialized cargos to colonies and other areas.
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It would help if we knew what was being stored in the cargo spaces of Trek spacecraft.

    Basically, we get to visit starship cargo holds in ENT, DSC, TNG and VOY, in in-universe chronological order. (In addition, DS9 features cargo processing spaces, but of a somewhat different nature.) In most of those cases, we learn of no A-to-B moving of cargo - but we don't exactly learn of the contents being supplies, either, that is, ship's stores needed while underway.

    The TNG bays generally appear to lack an "outer" door altogether, and probably are supposed to be ship's stores, locations for keeping spares or emergency rations or research team instruments or whatnot. Distribution would be via internal transporter or manhandling of containers (which generally appear to be ideally sized for both roles, being the size of a man and therefore both transporter-compatible and "spatially manageable", once one slaps an antigrav onto them). No doubt even a replicator-equipped ship would have plenty of need for supplies stowed in blue plastic barrels or fancily shaped boxes.

    A couple of TNG bays plus many VOY ones do have outer doors, that is, ones opening directly to space (and never mind that these ships don't exactly have vertical outer walls that would provide for such doors and for an unobstructed starscape beyond). Arcane stevedoring methods would be available, then, no doubt involving extensive use of those pretty little workbees.

    On occasion, the E-D does haul stuff from A to B, though, such as in "The Child": a priority shipment, carefully packaged as general goods rather than bulk, but in some quantity. Might be the ship's stores type holds suffice for that. Might be the ship has separate holds for the purpose. Heaven knows she has enough interior volume for that, and for a couple of small towns or indoors mountain ranges for that matter!

    But we know dedicated ships haul cargo in Trek, too. And almost invariably these use container-type holds, but almost as invariably the containers are of a ship-specific, non-interchangeable type. Which is probably for the better: the logistics of tare management can be omitted when these containers only move when attached to the ships, or when being moved to and from a loading terminal of some sort at the spaceport. That is, there's no distributing of them from the big ships to smaller barges or road or air transport, or extensive storing at container parks, or anything like that. Containers today move best between peer ports; Trek ports would be the epitome of inequality, with capital worlds shipping stuff to one-horse colonies and vice versa.

    It's a bit curious that we never see true bulk transport after ENT. We do hear of "ore" being hauled, but the one or two times we actually see it happening, the ships involved are minuscule. Okay, so perhaps "ore" is a bit of a misnomer, and the product is in fact highly refined already, but still...

    What else? We know basically nothing about interstellar economy: do goods move from planet to planet solely in emergencies and during construction projects, all movement ceasing when a planet gets self-sufficient? After all, planets do appear utterly isolated, e.g. Deneva remaining silent for a year before anybody pays any attention. Or is, say, ore or grain being regularly shipped? Turning planets into breadbaskets with the Genesis Device would appear futile if grain can't then move across space to those places in need (they themselves can't be bombarded with Genesis, obviously). But we never hear of grain moving: even in TAS "More Tribbles", what is being moved in the robotic ships is special stock for eugenics purposes, not bulk for consumption.

    Curiously, many cargo ships appear to be superfast: the Xepolites make a living on that, but Kasidy Yates also does circuits through multiple star systems in a matter of hours. Is this exclusive to tramps, or do packets and other regular services also operate that way? Why is "a freighter's speed" apparently universally just warp 2 in "Friday's Child"?

    Perhaps we're missing big pieces of this puzzle yet, and a lumbering bulk carrier will finally be spotted in some future spinoff...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  3. Henoch

    Henoch Commodore Premium Member

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    Another data point from TOS Dagger Of The Mind:
    and from The Cloud Minders:
    In TOS, the cargo must be containers able to maneuver through corridors and the transporter room doors. Be portable to be put in the transporter. The ship has some cargo space assigned as vaults for lock up.
     
  4. StarCruiser

    StarCruiser Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I would assume - based purely on TOS - that cargo is pretty much always high-priority stuff. Not routine freight - the Enterprise is not a freighter.

    Medical supplies - multiple occasions.
    Specialized equipment - maybe?

    A "Starship", being a fast ship out on the frontier, could be called upon to deal with a variety of emergencies fairly regularly.

    I'm not sure why they went with the huge cargo bay in TMP, as it never really fits with the mission of such a vessel. There's enough room in there for a fairly decent load, literally thousands of tons of cargo.
     
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  5. DEWLine

    DEWLine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Because they expected to do other, more routine work after the V'Ger crisis was resolved: resupply to assorted starbases, outposts, colonies, full-member worlds, emergency freight operations, etc.. Or the scriptwriters and designers wanted to leave themselves that option, anyway.
     
  6. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The TMP cargo hold isn't all that capacious in the end. Big, perhaps - but cargo there is only stowed at the very bottom of the pit. And, theoretically, one deck up from there as well, on that sliding "spar deck" that Probert drew in to make the space a bit less impractical, but the spar deck might just as well not be there, from what one can actually see.

    My personal take on this is that the TMP refit involved not only ripping out the physical walls of the secondary hull, but also compacting of the actual engineering systems, especially the main power plant - a bit like how WWI coal-powered battleships gained vast internal spaces when they were upgraded with more compact oil-firing power systems. Previously, the space above the yellow circle at the secondary hull bottom was occupied by a vast spherical reactor, much like seen in ST:ID, and the circle in fact was an ejection hatch for said (with the otherwise wasted space around the bottom of the sphere filled with assorted support systems but also ejectables). Now, the sphere got compacted and moved a bit farther forward, and the engineers couldn't come up with anything else to fill the space with. Not in the pathfinding NCC-1701 refit yet, anyway; later Constitution upgrades may have done better there.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  7. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    Indeed, the shuttlebay and engineering section we see in ST5 is quite different from the open structure we see in TMP. We could assume that the 1701-A was not a refit of an old Connie at all, but was a new build (put together by monkeys). The TMP configuration might have been restricted to those Connies that were upgraded from the TOS versions.

    --Alex
     
  8. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Commander Red Shirt

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    I assume one reason to have plentiful bay space is to hold pre-replicated items. There’s at least one instance where the Geordi had to direct the entirety of the ships power supply to replication for at least an hour. Imagine having to do that for even a minute in an emergency, imagine just not having power as with La Sirena in PIC.

    In DS9 we find there is at least one item which cannot be replicated.

    I imagine bulk cargo movement would be non-existent in Star Trek. Why carry a hundred thousand tons of grain to a planet instead of replicators which give far greater versatility.

    I figure cargo comes in a few forms in Trek: unreplicatable luxury, unreplicatable emergency, unreplicatable necessity. Everything else comes down to whether you have a replicator and a pattern, and patterns should be transportable by subspace.

    Luxury has no time pressure so it pays to move as much luxury in one shot as possible and it can be slow. Only the most extreme luxuries would prize speed, thanks to cost being no issue, or small volume for security.

    Emergency goods need maximum volume and speed, but there might only be one or another. This likely why we see the Enterprise doing medication runs because it has the speed and volume in one.

    Necessities probably come down to anything the local replicators and engineers are unable to construct themselves due to complexity and size. That’s why we see industrial replicators and large phasers being delivered, the average replicator cant make it in one go and local engineers can’t assemble them. That stuff can stand to be huge and slow.
     
  9. Unicron

    Unicron Boss Monster Mod Moderator

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    One unit in Jackill's series is a specialized, high speed tender to transport the cylindrical TT pods. Not a full dedicated starship, but more a compact system that can be deployed if such cargo needs to be rushed in a hurry.

    There's also the Kentwood class, which is designed specifically to transport extremely bulky cargo like the secondary hull of a ship for construction or some nacelles. It's similar to modern designs that fill that role, and are pretty much for specialized bulk.
     
  10. Leathco

    Leathco Commander Red Shirt

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    I would claim as Trek tech goes on, cargo bays would become obsolete. A transporter buffer could hold the cargo, and finish the transport when the items are needed. The tech might already exist in the Trek era, as Scotty was held in a transport buffer for 8 decades.
     
  11. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Many factors in Trek work in favor of this: the non-Starfleet cargo ships we see are all quite small, many are quite fast, and the cargoes tend to be luxury items and perishables. The only thing going against this is the mention of ore hauling, which reeks of bulk and makes very little sense overall (today, ore gets hauled when refining in situ is costlier than the fuel oil spent on moving the stuff overseas, but even though warp appears dirt cheap, it still beggars belief that anybody would volunteer to move inert rock from star to star just to get the dilithium within to the customer).

    But economy is economy, and the math is unyielding. If it costs more to replicate an item or a substance than to haul it from Kappa Periferia, it gets hauled. Until something changes - but by that time, the hauling itself may have become such an estabished business that it now makes sense to haul small pebbles back and forth, just to keep the ships moving.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  12. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Commander Red Shirt

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    That's what is done in the game Star Trek Elite Force so the player can have the normal FPS weapon load of ten weapons. It also must be power efficient given how long Scotty survived. I figure by the time of PIC ships should have their transporters rigged to work as backup cargo space, and it would be especially valuable for shuttles. In another 20 years maybe transporter buffer cargo hauling would be the norm.
    It could be that the interstellar bulk haulers are not interstellar at all, especially the warp 2 variety. Every system could have a wealthy Oort cloud, and Oort clouds can extend out further than one light year. At that distance impulse is impractical, but warp two is just about perfect, especially for an automated hauler. That would explain warp 2 cargo ships in deep space, they don't go from planet to planet, just out of the same system and back repeatedly.

    For an asteroid belt, or planetary ring impulse ships are more than enough for anything under a light day.
     
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  13. Unicron

    Unicron Boss Monster Mod Moderator

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    That's an interesting idea, but the main problem for me is you'd have a higher energy cost to keep the transporters functioning that way. Plus what happens if the ship takes damage and the transporters are offline? If you have lifesaving medication as cargo that could help the crew but it's stuck as an energy pattern, where does that leave you?

    I think Scotty's preservation is a special case as well, as it was a very lucky jury rig that managed for an extended period of time. But it's arguably not something that anyone can do. :D
     
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  14. KamenRiderBlade

    KamenRiderBlade Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Why are you spending energy to hold items in the transporter buffer?

    That's incredibly wasteful & unnecessary.

    Just beam them into the cargo room and be done with it.

    Let the crew strap things down and organize / validate the contents.

    Then call it a day.

    Main Power has gone off-line enough times that replicators don't have enough power to work.

    Having enough spare parts to get main power back up and build a new replicator from the ground up if necessary would be a good backup plan when you're out in the middle of Random Space.

    Voyager proved that to be true.

    You never know who's going to be the next "Voyager - Special Unplanned Long Away Mission."

    So it's best to be ready.
     
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  15. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Why would the energy of transporting be a concern? Transporters are the very last system to go down when a spacecraft is deprived of power (TVH et al.) - and they can be revived with a flashlight battery (TNG "The Hunted"), and easily remain not just in a working condition but actually constantly working for a century without maintenance or supervision (TNG "Relics").

    Moving of stuff from A to B would be a challenge in at least two ways: getting the mass moving, and then not moving, is supposed to take effort, and erecting a shelter or at least a thrust-transmitting structure around or in between it consumes resources and has to be made to move and stop. However, in Star Trek, the inertia of matter and mass can be negated. Yet supposedly it takes power to do so. What is the relationship between this power and the mass it negates? Can the same machine deal with the inertia of a gram of gemstones or a trillion tons of ore? Or does the latter require a million trillion times more power? Does the truth lie somewhere in between, perhaps making bulk transport attractive after all?

    Erecting the shelter is a one-off investment, plus some minimal maintenance issues. The same would apply to a transporter buffer. So which one is cheaper? We can be pretty confident that the size and complexity of a buffer does not grow linearly with the payload, so a cargo hold for those trillion tons might well be the same physical size and mass as for that gram. Is the power consumption the same? We still don't know the tech well enough to tell.

    Some safety-minded customers might insist on keeping their goods physical. Most would probably embrace transporter buffers for their vast advantages, quickly driving the conservative competition out of business.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  16. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Many starship are intended to operate for prolonged periods in deep space without access to starbases for supplies or support, so they need to carry spare parts and provisions for all conceivable eventualities--medical emergencies, power loss, survey equipment, spare parts, humanitarian relief, etc.

    There will be materials that can't be replicated, but there are also times when replicators may be unavailable and also the fact that it will take a lot of energy and matter to create absolutely everything they would need, which could be too resource intensive, when the physical object could just as easily be stored in the ship for use if/when needed.
     
  17. Mytran

    Mytran Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's not so much the transporter buffers that would be required for the cargo items (that's only needed for living creatures), just the patterns stored in the ship's computer
     
  18. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ...In the model where transporters create something out of nothing by applying abstract patterns. If they instead only juggle packets of matter, which occasionally happen to be in a phased state, then the only place in which that matter can be stored is the buffer; a computer, even one operating a holodeck and its built-in transporterlike machinery, is a very poor substitute, as in "Our Man Bashir".

    Having stuff replicated in situ out of a pattern is slightly different - and may face limitations, perhaps stemming from the fact that there is no pre-provided lump of phased matter at the ready, and already containing vast amounts of information. But how limited is the replicator, really?

    We have never been told that there would be a material that cannot be replicated. Instead, there are cases where we are told something won't be replicated (for a declared or unknown reason), and others where it's implicit it won't because we witness other means of obtaining it in action. But nobody ever says there would be a technical hurdle in replicating live puppies or entire starships - it's just that other sorts of hurdles readily emerge in such cases.

    Sometimes it may be cheaper to mine and transport than to replicate. In other cases, it may be cheaper to mine, but transporting then breaks the camel's back and replication is actually cheaper for customer at distant location X. In yet others, mining (or growing, or manufacturing by non-replication means) may be a stupid idea, yet transportation is so cheap that it's better to have the replicator at R while the customers are spread at X, Y and Z.

    That's economy for ya... Doing that which is possible is seldom wise, while there's occasional money to be made in the impossible.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  19. Leathco

    Leathco Commander Red Shirt

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    As far as the energy cost of holding something in a buffer, I would say it's negligible at best, and possibly even nonexistent once we get to the Picard series era. A great example would be modern day PC RAM, which is more or less a storage buffer. It takes a very small amount of power to keep something in RAM. And modern day SSDs are much like RAM, using storage modules instead of magnetic platters for storage. Many SSDs can go years without needing power to retain the information on them. I would think in the TOS era and possibly even the TNG era, the transporter buffer acted much like system RAM, but as technology moves forward perhaps the patterns could simply be written in something akin to an SSD.
     
  20. Mytran

    Mytran Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So...by "transporter buffer" are we just meaning the computer memory storage?

    I always got the impression that the buffer was like a storage area for the deconstructed transportee, prior to them being reconstituted on the platform or being sent to their planetside destination.
    Is this not the case?