Principles of spaceflight

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This article introduces the principles of spaceflight.

Impulse Flight

See also: Impulse Systems

Impulse Drive is a spacecraft propulsion system using conventional Newtonian reaction to generate thrust. A ship under impulse drive is limited to slower-than-light speeds. Normally, full impulse speed is 0.25c: one quarter of the speed of light. Although this is adequate for most interplanetary travel it is inadequate for travel between the stars. Faster-than-light velocities, necessary for interstellar flight, generally require the use of warp drive.

The impulse drive uses cryogenic slush deuterium as fuel. The slush is further cooled and formed into pellets, which are fired into a fusion reactor to generate high-energy plasma. This is directed from the impulse reaction chamber into an accelerator/generator. If the impulse drive is active, the plasma is accelerated and passed to the space-time driver coils; otherwise the plasma energy is diverted to the ship's power distribution net. The driver coil assembly produces a low-level subspace field effect lowering the apparent mass of the spacecraft: this is particularly important for very large starship classes, but is often omitted as unnecessary on smaller ones. Finally, the exhaust is passed to a vectored thrust director which expels the exhaust in a controlled manner to generate the actual thrust and steerage.

While the spacecraft is under impulse power, the helmsman is responsible for monitoring the inertial dampening system. In the event a specified manuever exceeds the capacity of the inertial dampening system, the computer will request that Conn modify the flight plan to bring it within the permitted performance envelope. During Alert status, however, flight rules permit Conn to specify manuevers that are potentially dangerous to the ship and/or her crew.

Warp Flight

See also: Warp Systems

Warp drive is the primary faster-than-light propulsion system. It employs the controlled annihilation of matter and antimatter, regulated by dilithium crystals, to generate the tremendous power required. The human race developed warp drive in 2063. Earth's first warp flight took place on April 4, 2063; the warp ship Phoenix took off from Resurrection, Montana, under the command of her designer, Dr. Zephram Cochrane, thereby triggering humanity's first contact with the interstellar community. The warp drive uses supercooled slush deuterium and antideuterium as fuel.

Since antimatter annihilates normal matter on contact, great care is taken to store the antimatter within magnetic containment fields. Two streams of reactants, one deuterium and one antideuterium, are fired down a cylindrical apparatus known as the Matter/Antimatter Reaction Assembly (M/ARA), or warp core. These streams meet at a precisely calculated point on a dilithium crystal. Dilithium has the special property that it can mediate matter/antimatter reactions without itself being destroyed. A tuned stream of high-energy plasma is produced. This is passed along the power transfer conduits to the warp nacelles. Here the plasma stream is passed through a series of warp coils, which generate a subspace field known as the warp field. This field lowers the apparent mass of the spacecraft, allowing faster-than-light travel. The propulsive effect is provided by the oscillating, peristaltic nature of the field generated.

When a starship is under warp propulsion, Conn is responsible for monitoring the subspace field geometry with help from Engineering. The Conn station is continuously updated with data coming in from the long range sensors and will automatically make course correctments to adjust for any minor variations in the density of subspace. It is part of Conn's responsibility to supervise this automatic process.

For technical reasons stemming from engine efficiencies and some very involved subspace physics it is more convenient to measure warp speeds in terms of warp factors than multiples of the speed of light, C = 3x10^8 m/s.

Eugene's law states that there is a warp velocity that cannot be reached and which corresponds to 'infinite speed'; by convention this is placed at warp 10, although the increasing frequency of operations in the warp 9.99+ region may soon necessitate a recalibration to place Eugene's limit at warp factor 15 or 20.

Advanced Drive Systems

See also: Quantum Slipstream Drive

There are several drive systems capable of much greater speeds than conventional warp drive, such as the Borg transwarp drive and the quantum slipstream drive. The operational speeds of these drives are of the order of Warp 9.9999. Some Starfleet vessels are equipped with such drives, but all are considered highly experimental. Lt. Tom Paris was the first to break the Warp 10 barrier when he achieves transwarp in the shuttlecraft Cochrane, However this flight produced dangerous and was not considered a success.

After the flight, Paris had elevated serotonin levels in the hypothalamus and his cells start mutating.


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