Impulse Drive, Therories on how it works?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Donnewtype, May 11, 2019.

  1. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, no.

    This is the Trek Tech forum. See FAQ #2 [https://www.trekbbs.com/threads/trek-tech-faq.27593/].

    2] What source materials will be used in this forum? Because Trek Tech, as a genre, exists as much in the minds of fandom as anything explicated strictly on-screen, a wide variety of sources will be considered worthy of consideration. .... ​
     
  2. Mytran

    Mytran Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Do all sources have equal weight though?
     
  3. Unicron

    Unicron Boss Monster Mod Moderator

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    Speaking for myself, I'd say it varies. I generally am willing to include offscreen material in my own head canon if it doesn't contradict onscreen statements, or occasionally if it does but explains it better. In my experience neither set of data (screen canon versus fan works or older licensed products) is necessarily going to be correct or logical all of the time.

    To use a non-technical example, I think one of ENT's strengths was how it used the Andorians and showing them as being adversaries with the Vulcans. This is in direct contrast with how FASA depicted their history, as the two races met in a friendly fashion in that continuity.

    To use a more technical related issue, the Borg were initially intended only to be a one shot race, and it's true that "Q Who?" doesn't directly reference assimilation the way later episodes would. I'm not entirely sure if the writer's intent at the time likely omitted it, since the episode has some other oddities like the nursery and it was likely assumed the Borg wouldn't be seen again. However, Q and Guinan both make statements that could be inferred to referencing it, and Q also says that the Collective has no interest in humans or other species on a cultural level. They simply consume, and I like the idea that they see living beings as just another form of technology to absorb.
     
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  4. MAGolding

    MAGolding Captain Captain

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    The novel Final Frontier by Diane Carey has Capt. Kirk's father George go on the first mission of the Enterprise with Captain Robert April.

    Final Frontier
    includes a scene where someone asks engineers how the impulse drive and the warp drive work, and as I remember the impulse drive was highly exotic, if not as much as the warp drive. Of course this is not canon but might agree to some degree with more canonical data.

    And I may note that "The Cage" has dialog from Acting Captain Spock that didn't make it into "Menagerie Part 2":

    Opinions may vary as to how canonical "The Cage" is and what relationship Spock's rockets have to impulse drive or maneuvering thrusters.
     
  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It would be attractive to think that separate terminology refers to a separate system - but then we need to consider the half a dozen ways the ship's shielding system is described, and decide whether "shields", "screens" and "deflectors" are all their own thing, or three names for the same, or all split into even further things...

    Impulse engines are less of a plot element than warp drives; if they go down, the heroes aren't quite as screwed as if they lose their interstellar drive (or at least the variant that gets them back home for dinner rather than for their funerals). So there's a bit less technobabble on them. What we're totally missing is bits where the heroes explicitly say "We'll fly between stars at impulse!" or "Let's get to X in time shorter than allowed by Einstein even though we just lost our warp drive!" or things of that nature. At the very best, we get "apparent FTL" which could just as well be time dilation, or "apparent impulse" which could just as well be our heroes briefly going to warp between shots. The dash from outer Sol to Earth in "Best of Both Worlds II" is a good example of such.

    ...But in addition to that, we miss any bits describing the impulse exhaust as a rocket flame, whilst we do have impulse engines described as having a tailpipe. Which does appear to be burping out stuff even when a ship is immobile, which seems to be how Kirk kills Chang.

    Tellingly, in the aforementioned "Preemptive Strike", Ro pretends to defeat the E-D defenses by flying through the spot where the "thrust" of the impulse engine weakens the aft shields - establishing that this thrust in itself doesn't present any threat to Ro's small craft. Were the thrust a rocket flame, Ro would be flying right into it, with all sorts of Newtonian consequences if nothing else. Were the thrust a field effect, it need not extend far or be pointed at anything much; it would understandably disrupt the shields, another magical field effect, regardless.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  6. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The exhaust could be from the fusion reactors, which power the ship regardless of whether impulse drive is in use.
     
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  7. KamenRiderBlade

    KamenRiderBlade Captain Captain

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    Maybe the Impulse Exhaust Nozzles do double duty as a form of Fusion Reactor Tail Pipe & Propulsive Nozzle?
     
  8. Donnewtype

    Donnewtype Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Hey Henron, your idea is very similar to something that I've been considering for a while and that could also give you a structure that visually matches what you see on the tv screen; more or less.

    First the handwavium that is needed to make it work:
    1) Like light, gravity exists as both a particle and a wave. (Wave Particle Duality Theory)
    2) Gravity waves undergo diffraction. (The Impulse Engine ports we see are huge diffraction assemblies.)
    3) Gravity waves can by amplified, like light, by physical amplification. (A cavity or resonance amplifier.)

    The "big" breakthrough was not Warp Theory but Artificial Gravity. I see Cochrane needing it as the foundation for his warp engine theories, but almost immediately Graviton Wave Theory implies a very different but very powerful propulsion system that could achieve impossible accelerations.

    it works like this: Duel gravity generators produce two synchronized wave sources. The waves are projected through two diffraction assemblies that create interference as the waves propagate outwards behind the ship. Like diffraction patterns produced by light waves, the intersecting waves produce nodes and antinodes (corresponding to the points of reinforcement and cancellation found in light wave diffraction)

    The nodes and antinodes are gravity point sources and when that act against the mass of the ship pushing it forward. An analogy would be a nuclear pulse propulsion system where a nuclear warhead is detonated behind the ship and the pulse accelerates the ship forward.

    The amplitudes needed to accelerate the ship could never be achieved by any single gravity generator. Instead the generated wave is amplified through the use of a tuned resonance tunnel. Like an optical cavity that amplifies light, the chamber amplifies the gravity wave until critical amplitude is reached in the standing wave. Along with varying the output frequency of the gravity generators, a variable density super fluid is circulated to change the resonance of the tunnel as the ship accelerates or decelerates.

    In order to protect the crew and Engineering, a secondary open air resonance chamber is needed to cancel out the interference points that form between the wave guide generators. (This is the long piped chamber that we see extending back behind Engineering.)

    To generate the gravity wave, I picture something like a microwave magnetron, but using neutronium as the core material.
     
  9. Henoch

    Henoch Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    It is clear that artificial gravity was a big breakthrough, too, and it proceeded the next big breakthrough in warp propulsion.

    From TOS:
    It sure looks like Khan's late-20th century ship had artificial gravity, and judging by its location after 200 (or even 300 years) to be several hundred light years out from Sol. The ship had to be faster than light using some older FTL technology such as a gravity or impulse drive. It probably travelled at a low-FTL speed until its nuclear fuel ran out then drifted at high-ish STL speeds for the rest of the journey. Maybe with time dilation, Khan and his ship experienced only ~200 years while ~270 years passed in the real universe, hence Kirk's confused answer to Khan's "how long?"

    Then it all got retconned in ST:First Contact where it looks like warp drive came first, then humans got artificial gravity from the Vulcans. Okay movie, horrible retconning.​

    If the pipe structure is a gravity wave generator, then to cancel out the interference points, you would probably need two of them. Instead of one pipe structure in each hull, you might need two in each hull (4 total) so that the ship center of mass is balanced and so each hull might be able to operate independently from each other in an emergency separation. I see two pipe structures and their control rooms on port side/starboard side in the primary hull, and two pipe structures and their control rooms side-by-side in the secondary hull. Honestly, I'm not a fan of this design primarily due to lack of any on-screen evidence throughout all Star Trek series. Heck, even though artificial gravity is as common as air, the science behind the impulse drive is never truly explained in any of the series, either.

    That was about all I understood in your post; the rest went through my head like a neutrino (yes, this is a reference to the last Young Sheldon episode).
     
  10. KamenRiderBlade

    KamenRiderBlade Captain Captain

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    That sounds similar to Gravimetric Drive from Babylon 5
     
  11. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I'm all for that - in special cases, and as an option.

    The E-D, on which the Tech Manual doubletalk on impulse drives is written, is one of the very few ships where the main fusion tailpipe is actually located at thrust axis, pointing aft, and unobstructed. The engineers might have decided to make use of this and turn the fumes into a propulsive jet this rare once. This would be akin to a select few piston-engined propeller aircraft using their engine exhaust to boost the propulsion, when most aircraft vent the exhaust nonpropulsively to avoid unnecessary complications.

    A ship like the Steamrunner would not be able to use the fusion tailpipes that way, not without sending herself spinning and melting her pylons. But she woudln't need to, as the fusion-powered field drive would already be doing an adequate job. She might not be as nimble or fast as an Enterprise (Kirk's and Garrett's also seem to have their tailpipes in convenient locations, and Archer's and Harriman's can be argued), but she might be easier on the maintenance crews, more reliable, more economical, things of that nature.

    What in the movie would indicate Earth didn't have artificial gravity yet? Nobody comes out and says the DY-100s didn't exist, or weren't launched in the 1980s-1990s. Or that Cochrane himself didn't survive his launch thanks to inertial dampers, and achieve that fantastic ballistic arc with a gravity-defying engine. We saw that the Earth that launched the DY-100s didn't launch a line of hovercars, when we visited California in 1996; hovercars aren't all that common even in the 23rd or 24th century Earths (or Vulcans!), even though we see lots of space-rated shuttlecraft flying about. Perhaps the tech has few everyday/civilian applications?

    We don't know where (or when - see above) Earth's artificial gravity came from. The only thing to touch upon that is TAS "Slaver Weapon" where the "key" to AG came from a flying belt found in a Slaver stasis box, at an undisclosed date. Is that how the Vulcans discovered AG around 220 BC, while Earthlings, Klingons and Pakleds came up with theirs all on their own? Or did the humans find said stasis box on the far side of the Moon during the Apollo 25½ flight, while digging the foundations for Moonbase Alpha in 1977, and Spock recites the human version of this story since the corresponding Tellarite find would interest nobody?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  12. USS Triumphant

    USS Triumphant Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Like the bumper sticker says, "Starfleet officers do it on impulse". Even if they have the E-D. And that's really all you need to know about it. ;)
     
  13. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    So the canonical order is warp drive then AG/IDF?
     
  14. USS Triumphant

    USS Triumphant Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No, warp drive, and then ID/GAF. ;)

    (Sorry. But the joke was *right there*. :D )
     
  15. Henoch

    Henoch Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    No, AG/IDF (what does the F stand for?) then warp drive. I like to think Artificial Gravity, Inertial Dampening Field?, Impulse Drive all arose from the same technological breakthrough and developed in phases to make a useful spaceship. Warp Drive came along to make it a starship about 40-50 years later.
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Indeed, AG might have been invented in the 1950s already, and slowly put in practice with experiments in the 1970s, artificial gravity applications in the 1990s, and impulse drive applications in the 2010s, but it wasn't until the 2050s that Earth came up with a working FTL drive, the work on which was then delayed by a decade because of the war.

    However, Cochrane is very specifically described as "the discoverer of the space warp", making it a bit unlikely that the key theoretical understanding behind the warp drive preceded his birth. Even if warp is a type of gravity manipulation, there'd appear to be a big conceptual and theoretical leap from the 2010s improved sublight drives to the 2050s FTL drive.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  17. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    IDF Inertia Damping Field.
    The canon claim is AG, warp drive, then IDF?
     
  18. Stibbons

    Stibbons Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    TOS shuttles and the like (depending on requirements of the episode) seem to be able to get up to near FTL levels or surpass it to a small degree. Presumably they're using subspace driver and/or AG "boosted" reaction drives since they can't have a full matter/antimatter warp drive setup.

    It's the transtators. That's it, they're in every bit of Federation tech. Transtators. Throw enough of them at it and the problem is solved.

    Whatever a transtator is (something subspacey).

    Perhaps the more exotic impulse drive theories have them "pushing" against subspace, making them effectively reactionless drives.
     
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  19. Henoch

    Henoch Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    From Space Seed:
    MARLA: Captain, it's a sleeper ship.
    KIRK: Suspended animation.
    MARLA: I've seen old photographs of this. Necessary because of the time involved in space travel until about the year 2018. It took years just to travel from one planet to another.​
    First, let's assume that the last line refers to travel between planets inside our own solar system. One or two years to Mars, Venus and Mercury, ~7 years to get to Saturn, etc. What could have come along to make these ships obsolete in 2018? Some sort of efficient high speed propulsion (still STL) such as impulse (gravity) drive. Later, add in a Gravity Elimination Field (Interial Dampening Field), then much higher accelerations are possible and maybe early FLT travel (no mass means no Einstein and Newton limitations.) Alpha Centauri in about one year? Zephram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri? Warp drive around 2050-2060.

    In Metamorphosis, the Enterprise was sensor sweeping for antimatter residual when searching for the shuttlecraft because it must have a M/AM reactor/engine...
    SULU: Steady. No, Mister Scott, bearing three ten mark thirty five just cleared. No antimatter residue.
    SCOTT: All scanners, spherical sweep. Range, maximum. They'll have to pick it up.
    UHURA: If the shuttlecraft powered away, Mister Scott, but if it were just towed?
    SCOTT: There'd still be traces of residual matter floating around, Lieutenant.
    SULU: Bearing two ten mark forty. Strong particle concentration. We're on it, Mister Scott.​

    The transtator is the universal technobabble MacGuffin. https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Transtator
    Old posts of mine:
    A list of bad scientific errors in Discovery
    Vents vs Spheres.
    Vents vs Spheres.
     
  20. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Could the shuttlecraft only use M/AM for inertia reduction?