Lack of Redundancy and warp capable lifeboats in Trek

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by sciquest2525, Sep 10, 2017.

  1. sciquest2525

    sciquest2525 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Problem that Trek has is that power for FTL and shields, weapons life support and sensors comes from one very big and very single point of failure prone warp reactor. No adequate backups. This is the kind of thinking in supertankers where if the main and only engine or engine pair goes, you have no propulsion.
    All USN destroyers have at least two engine rooms with two engines each for a total of four engines in the form of gas turbines driving two propellers to provide both more power and redundancy of propulsion so if the forward engine room drops out, the aft engine room can continue to drive the ship while power is supplied by three separate gas turbine generators, one in each engine room and a separate third generator in a generator room between the two side by side helo hangars and giving redundant power generation.
    In Trek, kill the one big warp reactor and all you have is fusion impulse power which is STL and very limited power for shields, weapons or sensors and life support.
    There really ought to be two main engine rooms with their own warp MAM reactors and emergency fusion reactors to supplement impulse power reactors.
    Heck, NASA shuttle had three engines driven by triple redundant auxillary power units, any one which provided enough power for safe launch, orbit and return. And one engine could fail and you still reach orbit in early stage of flight and later two engines could fail and you could still make it to orbit and failing that, NASA abort options would see the crew to safe parachuting into the ocean in extremis.
    And, if NASA had the will and the money, the Shuttle II would have had a larger cabin that could separate from the Shuttle proper and land safely on the water or the land. But they lacked both money and will to do that.
    Future Trek ships should always have two engine rooms while separable saucers should have backup internal or retractable warp engines with a least Warp 3 FLT speed since a saucer on impulse STL drive is essentially stationary.
    In the second pilot, " Where No Man Has Gone Before", such a backup fusion powered warp engine or small backup warp reactor could provide the real possibility of reaching the ore refinery when main power was lost.
    This would tie into statement that bases were now years away. Without such backup warp drive, bases would be centuries away and not mere years.
    The same could be said of lifeboats, as their very limited propulsion makes them stationary as well and they should have at least Warp 2 or 3 speeds with enough range to reach the nearest star system.
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    If wishes were horses...

    Clearly Starfleet can't have what it would like to have. If it did, there would not be a chronic shortage of starships so that every week only the hero ship ever manages to reach the crisis spot, and even then often too late.

    Backing up is expensive. Sometimes so expensive that it's more efficient to lose whatever is going to be lost than to try and save it. Starships might well be a case in point.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  3. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

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    I think the conceit was that antimatter reactors are incredibly costly and complex devices to build. Can you justify one for a cutting edge starship on deep space patrol? Absolutely. But two per ship would only be slightly less costly than fielding two separate ships, thus losing all the advantages that a pair of vessels would provide.

    EDIT: Timo's response beat me to the punch by mere seconds! ;)
     
  4. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Lots of the technical manual type books often included several seeming effective safety systems, intruder alert systems, and some redundancies.

    Some ship designs that are non-canon have at least one nacelle on the saucer section that potentially have some form of alternative way to power it (if it doesn't just have a secondary warp core, or the older style take that the warp nacelles are the power sources as well as propulsion.) There is also the theory that the Impulse engines generate a low power subspace field for mass reduction purposes, and this could possibly be used as an emergency low warp system (like warp 2 or 3 maybe), or at the very least a warp sustainer so that the saucer parts of the saucer separation at warp can maintain warp speeds for a considerable period of time.

    Cause even of a 23rd or 24th century starship gets its main drive knocked out, it would make sense to have even a low warp ability that could push them at somewhere between 8 and 30 times the speed of light just so they can be sure to be able to make it to the nearest star system in less than a year, and potentially limp to a starbase with the ship's supplies still last.
     
  5. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

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    A starship is a fairly self sufficient entity though. We know from Mark Of Gideon that the Enterprise carries enough food for the entire crew for 5 years (though I imagine most of it is Starfleet rations in that situation). Picard says in The Last Outpost that the ship can maintain basic life support on emergency power for several months - this can presumably be extended if the Impulse Engines are online

    With all that - waiting for rescue is probably the best solution. Pretty boring for TV, but far easier for an actual working fleet
     
  6. sciquest2525

    sciquest2525 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Rich Sternback has said a couple times on this forum that Enterprise D should have had two engine rooms and that could have been achieved by simply redressing the one engine room set to have the appearance of two engine rooms without having the expense and space required for the second engine room. It was a design flaw on the part of the creative team behind all the Trek series and movies that a second engine room, providing redundant power and propulsion. My supertanker example or a very large present day container ship that loses the one big engine would have to call a seagoing tug to rescue the ship and the tug might file a vary large salvage fee in court or at least charge a lost for their services.
    As a side note, there is a very large container ship that carries 12,000 or more twenty foot containers that is powered by a monster diesel engine, the largest in the world, weighs 2300 tons, is 44 feet high and 100 feet or more long and develops 107,000 brake horsepower. Lose that engine and have to call for a tug.
    Besides you are not duplicating the warp nacelles and save some money or use smaller nacelles and you more of them such as a four nacelle layout like the TNG Strargazer. Remember, the engines do not care if the power comes from MAM reactors or hydrogen fusion reactions unless MAM has warp specific properties which I vary much doubt. Fusion reactions need 100 times the fuel flow rate as an equivalent amount of matter/antimatter to produce the same amount of power as an MAM reaction because matter/antimatter fusion produces 100 times as much power per pound of fuel as an equivalent fusion reaction.
    So if the Doomsday Machine knocked out warp power or warp power reactor and Spock told Kirk that impulse power fuel would be exhusted in eight hours and the machine was still drawn by Enterprise's nacelles seems to establish that impulse engines could power the warp engines but would go through the hydrogen fusion fuel very, very, fast. A year of fusion fuel could be used up in 3.6 days if you wanted to run the power and propulsion systems at full power.
    The two MAM reactors do not need that each of them can provide full power to the ship but can be smaller since each reactor only generates 50% of the total maximum load.
    David Weber, an accomplished SF author which his bestselling Honour Harrington series has his warships have two or even three reactors though each one can carry the full power and propulsion loads.
    Some early drawings of part of Enterprise D showed a small emergency warp reactor down at either deck 40 or 42, the lowest decks on the ship, and compared to the reactor in main engineering it was very small.
    Real life naval practice is to have two engine rooms and two auxilary machinery rooms and these engineering spaces are separated so one hit by a missile or torpedo will kill only have and not all the power and propulsion.
    However, as shown by USS Cole bombing that a bad single hit might takeout all main power. John S MaCain and Fitzgerald collisions seemed to have temporary lost power but it was then restored at least in the unaffected engineering spaces as Fitzgerald and McCain seemed to have had at least partial propulsion and ship's power. USN has very strong survivability traits built in it's ships with a secondary steering station aft for example. Even new cruise ships take a similar approach with two engine rooms and two complete brides and duplicate control runs and probably have at least one emergency diesel generator to qualify for "safe return to port" international ship certification procedures. Check out the NOVA episode this season on the construction and features of the Italian built cruise ship Explorer of the Seas which is now operating, in the Pacific, I think.
    This is the problem of having a fictional world that runs counter to the real world. Hindsight has shown other problems in Trek and by all means, have Warp Two or Three capable lifeboats as well as shuttles and maybe impulse drive can achieve low Warp Factors like 2.5 or 3.0 until fusion fuel runs out.
    Current theories on a theoretical warp drive require not dilithium crystals but 'exotic matter' to generate the warp and have gone from all the power in the universe down to 700 kilograms of exotic matter and scaled down power levels. At present, exotic matter has only a theoretical existence as it has to be discovered. It did appear in the film Interstellar as, correctly in theory, as the substance that makes for a stable wormhole.
    Trek needs updated fact checking and I refer you to the I.S.S Enterprise which was built according to warp theory and is out there on Wikipedia along with Dr. White's attempts to discover a microwarp to prove his improved version of the Alcubiere's warp theory without needing infinite power, using very sensitive instruments, currently without substantive results
    European designs are built to a lower and cheaper standards which means if the new frigate program licenses build a foreign design such as the Italian flavor of the FREM frigate, besides US weapons, sensors and machinery, the ships will have to be brought up to stricter USN survivability standards and that could be costly modifications to the 'parent' designs
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2017
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  7. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, there are a lot of things in Star Trek technology that don't make any sense and this is, honestly, one of them. There is no particular reason for a starship to have one really big warp core that powers the entire ship; in fact, considering what the warp core does, there's not even any real reason for it to be as big as it is since the actual reaction chamber is only about the size of a dinner table.

    Strictly speaking, given the size of the reaction chamber and the size of the nacelle control room in TNG it makes more sense, logically and technologically, for the ship to pack two smaller warp cores, one into each nacelle, along with all the antimatter the ship needs to function in a separate compartment. More importantly, there's no particular need for a separate "engine room" on the ship in the first place since the engines are controlled from the bridge and the only thing the engineers need to do is fix the engines when they're breaking down (naval vessels have engine rooms because until the advent of electronic relays the only way to control the engines was to have a guy on the bridge yell throttle settings to someone in the actual engine room).

    There are a few other things in Trek that could stand to be revised since they're based on what are (by now) 70 year old anachronisms and make no sense.
    1) Phaser banks and photon torpedo launchers: switch places. If you're going to be launching missiles through a relatively small launch tube, you're going to want the ability to launch a whole LOT of those bad boys all at once, making it that much harder for your enemies to shoot your missiles down. Directed energy weapons don't have this problem and are actually only limited by how much power you can put into them. So a ship like the Enterprise doesn't really need 16 phaser bank in rotating turrets and two photon torpedo launchers in a forward-fixed mount. What it really needs is 16 torpedo launchers and a couple of enormous phaser cannons.

    2) Shields and deflectors: Basically invincible (not weakening by hit points like a videogame mechanic) but the effort of keeping the shields active against incoming fire or energy puts strain on the engines that can't be maintained indefinitely. If you keep hitting someone's shields over and over again it's equivalent to forcing his starship to run at ever faster and faster warp factors; eventually his engines will overheat and he'll have to shut them down, or his reactors will shut down automatically, or they'll overheat and explode, leaving him stranded. This is basically what happened in "Mudd's Women" and it might as well just be the normal way they do it for all situations.

    3) Sensors: nail it down so starship sensors come in three different types: radar, lidar, and gravitic. Radar and lidar are self explanatory and can give you specific information about where something is and what it's doing but are limited to the speed of light and therefore fairly short range. Gravitic operates instantly, but can only tell you -- within about a million kilometers -- where something is, and become increasingly less accurate and less reliable the smaller that "something" happens to be. If you want to find an enemy ship hiding in a solar system half a light year away, you're going to have to send a bunch of probes and/or shuttles to search the area. Tricorders: the "tri" means it records data using electromagnetic waves, sonic/ultrasonic waves, and by recording chemical traces in the surrounding air. Limited in that the tricorder can tell you where something is, and then when you get close enough it can "sniff" the chemical composition of the thing and finally tell you WHAT it is.

    4) Transporters: you can only beam to/from a place that has an actual transporter pad and you can't beam through solid objects. If you want to beam down to a planet, you have a land a drop a landing pad there first (use a probe or a shuttlecraft).

    5) Away teams: T-shirts are not field gear, guys. Get the prop department to make you some field gear.
     
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  8. sciquest2525

    sciquest2525 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    We started with propulsion units having their own MAM reactor in the nacelles in TOS and also MAM reactors in the secondary hull and this confused things and then moved propulsion power and sensor, life support, defenses and weapons in TMP including impulse engines to one big MAM reactor in both the neck and the secondary hull. This practice was continued in TNG, DS9 and Voyager. Afterwards, Rich Sternbach acknowleged the need for a two engine room setup so that the hit in Nemesis, as my example here, on one MAM reactor would not kill all of the main power systems, although admittedly, the backup power system seemed to support full combat capability, implying that 'E' had very powerful hydrogen fusion reactors that could handle the full 'battle load' in USN parlance.
    USN Arleigh Burke DDGs have three generators in three diffferent places and any two can provide full power for the battle load.
    So you go with two MAM main reactors in separate engine rooms separated by at least one compartment, such as an auxillary machinery room or a cargo space or large hydrogen fusion fuel tank or whatever so a hit on one engine room does not kill all main power.
    Saucer sections need a smaller backup MAM reactor or rather two MAM reactors in separate compartments and either an internal emergency warp engine or small retractable warp engine nacelles such as many retractable azimuth propulsion pods are used in several ship and offshore applications today.
    At least one proposed UK Type 31e frigate design has two engines and propellers adds a retractable emergency azimuthing thruster that drops down from the keel in the event main propulsion is lost so the frigate can limp home under it's own power.
    Impulse power might also be defined in a matter that allows low hyperlight speeds equivalent to WF 1.5 or 2.0 or whatever so the ship can limp home.
    Fusion reactors, as used for impulse power can match MAM output if their reaction chambers are big enough but consume one hundred times as much fuel per second as the MAM systems. We might redefine impulse power levels as shown in ST: Nemesis to MAM levels for the battle load but not counting warp engine operation.
    We need to separate power generation for hotel or battle loads from propulsion in warp drives. The nacelle or internal warp engine doesn't care whether power is produced by MAM or hydrogen fusion reactors so long as it is enough to run the warp engine.
    Personally, I like retractable warp nacelles for sauces. I also like multiple external nacelles and installing full size nacelles on the saucer section with two nacelles, at least, for primary and secondary hulls with four nacelle setups for future ships to provide propulsion redundancy.
    After all, the Prometheus Class, never mentioned in canon apart from it's one appearance in ST: Voyager, used six separate nacelles, including two retractable nacelles for the command section on the ship and all the primary, secondary and tertiary hulls had full warp propulsion and power for the battle load.

    Originally, Rich Sternback was asked to make a five unit composite starship rather then the three unit MVAM composite starship.
    For a combat capable starship, redundant bridges, engine room and nacelles are sensible design requirement for future ships.
     
  9. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Compared to a lot of ship in sci-fi these days--trek saucers might as well be lifeboats.
     
  10. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

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    I've always seen the saucer AS a lifeboat.
     
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  11. B.J.

    B.J. Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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  12. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Commander Red Shirt

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    There's a book where the idea of life boats in space is derided as, at best, pointless, and at worst deadly. I believe the statement is something like, why leave the sheer scale of available resources of a dead ship for a coffin size pod which won't offer any greater resources, comfort, or chance of escape. The idea is that an escape pod can't possibly get you to a planet from interplanetary, let alone interstellar, deep space. The escape pod only makes sense in orbit of an inhabited planet, in which case your escape pod may be the normal landing pod or shuttle.

    Trek is different though, its escape pods really aught to be warp capable, at least down to warp 1 or 2 considering how small warp capable shuttles can be. At the absolute least they should be capable of max impulse. If you can do that, then you get the benefit of time dilation. Imagine if it has built in cryo stasis, then you are really set.

    In this regard, the saucer as life boat makes some really good sense thanks to sheer scale, and the fact that it has hefty impulse engines.
     
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  13. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    And warp engines.

    After all, you just plausibly argued that warp engines are small, cheap and useful. Surely every saucer has at least fifteen hundred of those? (We know the E-D saucer has, as it moves at independent medium warp often enough, sometimes even independently accelerating to this speed.)

    But redundancy in general is a poor idea. After all, it multiplies all of your failure points. Regardless of whether your doubled gear has to work simultaneously or in turns, you need to dedicate more resources to something that could be done with just a single piece of the gear. If your second unit is strictly a backup, your maintenance teams are even worse off, as they must guarantee the working of the backup in all conditions without even having a chance to turn it on.

    Providing lifeboats with top-notch survival gear poses a risk, then: "dumb" boats at least are guaranteed to work, but "smart" ones may fail you worse than the ship you are abandoning.

    As usual, it falls on the Accounting Department to do the decisive math, then. You don't load up with nice-to-have gear, be it backup systems or bailout systems, unless you have calculated having the gear is an improvement over leaving it ashore.

    Ol' von Braun had the right idea as regards redundancy in space: don't pack it all in the same spaceframe. Having two starships flying in formation is much better than having two starships bolted together. Or if you really must bolt spacecraft together, then at least remember to plan a division of labor so that you don't build needless redundancy that will hurt you.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  14. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Commander Red Shirt

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    Since impulse engines have to have warp coils to make sense, it is not out of the question the saucer can hit low warp with just impulse. I think .96 c is like 1.02 c from the object's perspective and warp coils, or impulse coils in this case, should allow for bypassing time dilation and infinite mass.
     
  15. David cgc

    David cgc Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    You may want time dilation in a lifeboat. If you're counting on a rescue taking a while, it's even better than hibernation.
     
  16. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    In the Star Fleet Battles (game) universe, the Warp engines produce power, as do the Impulse engines and the Auxiliary Power Reactors. Also, a ship without Warp Drive can achieve some degree of Warp/FTL speed using the Impulse engines only, but not in a combat setting. (How else do you think the Romulans could control a stellar empire??)

    As to lifeboats: true, I have not seen any TOS/TAS-era deck plans that include lifeboats. I considered installing some on the Police Cutter deck plans that I drafted, but instead turned them into extra crew quarters. I'll have some words in the descriptive text stating these could be lifeboats.
     
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  17. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

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    The only way the Romulans could have ruled an interstellar empire (let alone fight a protracted war with Starfleet) would be with decent FTL drives. Maybe the BOP from Balance Of Terror was a sublight weapons testing vessel, but the Romulan people as a whole had to have had a technological equivalence to the Earthers for any of the events we are told about to make an ounce of sense.

    As for lifeboats in TOS, the only mention we have for reference is in WNMHGB in that one would be larger than a metre in size. Beyond that we can only speculate on their size, range or function
     
  18. Tomalak

    Tomalak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well he actually gave Voyager a second warp core, but it was never mentioned on screen despite the number of times it would have been very useful.

    Why not? As he and Okuda note in the TNG TM, because the ship ultimately moves as fast as the writers want, and has the precise capabilities required for dramatic necessity.

    In this case, it's more expedient to give the ship one main power source for the writers to disable by whatever means needed that week.
     
  19. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

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    In Voyager's case, the second warp core (according to Sternbach) was just a giant "spare part" and would have had to be towed towed into position and inserted into the cavity left by the original ejected core before it could be used
     
  20. STR

    STR Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Answer in one. Submarines (with a couple of Russian exceptions) operate with one reactor. Not because it wouldn't be nice to have two, but because of the financial and opportunity costs are far higher than the benefits.

    Warp cores (aside from the Galaxy class' unit, which was clearly defective) are fairly safe and reliable. Anything that knocks the core offline will generally render the ship incapable of superluminal flight anyway.