Nasa / Space optimize

It's time to build the USS Enterprise

Read about one engineer's proposal that we should build a ship that resembles Star Trek's USS Enterprise within the next 20 years. What do you think of his idea?

An engineer, revealing himself only as BTE-Dan, created a website explaining how humans, and more specifically Americans, can and should build a spaceship over the next 20 years -- a spaceship that resembles Star Trek's Enterprise.

The website is BuildTheEnterprise.org. BTE-Dan has assembled a massive collection of analyses (mostly his own) and has posted them there. These range from overall ship design (the Enterprise's shape and form) to the engines to the gravity wheel needed to generate the 1g of centrifugal force for humans to live and work as they would on Earth. His intention is to only have the exterior of the ship resemble the Enterprise, not for us to come up with all of the technologies that are present in any of its incarnations. Here are some of the technologies we already have that he would like included or ones he believes we can reasonably develop in the 20-year window:

  • Gravity wheel: With a diameter of about 1,500 feet, the wheel would need to spin at about two rotations per minute in order to generate the 1g. This wheel would be magnetically suspended and driven to reduce wear and tear since no moving parts ever touch each other. This would be housed within the Saucer Hull, which is the perfect shape for a gravity wheel, being circular. Take a look at this demo video to see more: http://youtu.be/VMafReWFSfE.
  • Ion engines: BTE-Dan would like to see a 1.5GWe (Giga Watt electrical) ion engine developed as the ship's primary drive. This would be housed in (for those who are familiar with the "actual" Enterprise design) the Engineering Hull. There would also be two auxiliary 0.5GWe engines housed in the Nacell Hulls. Humans have currently designed 200MWe (0.2GWe) engines, so this isn't a huge stretch.
  • Nuclear reactors: To go along with the ion engines, BTE-Dan's design calls for nuclear reactors of the same power output as is needed for the engines -- so one 1.5GWe and two 0.5GWe nuclear reactors. For safety, these are also housed within the same hulls as their respective engines, which are no less than 250 feet away from the Saucer Hull.
  • Shielding: Space is full of harmful radiation; the only reason we're safe on Earth is due to both the atmosphere and the magnetosphere. Therefore, as with all other human-carrying spacecraft, some amount of shielding is needed once we leave Earth. The basic shielding is a combination of aluminum and plastic walls, with no less than three walls between space and any human-occupied area. He also designed a "storm shelter" at the center of the Saucer Hull that has additional shielding in case of "solar particle events" (SPE). These are all "passive" shield technologies. He hopes we can develop some sort of "active" shielding technology that will protect us in much the same way as Earth's magnetosphere.
  • Spaceport and universal landers: The ship will contain three independent bays that will function as docking areas for small visiting craft. In addition, the Enterprise will be equipped with at least three universal landers -- these crafts are able to land on and take off from Earth, Mars, or the moon.

There is much, much more detail at BTE-Dan's site, BuildTheEnterprise.org. He goes into the financial needs of the project and has a 100-year roadmap to build future iterations of the Enterprise. I suggest that you go there, read what he has proposed, and ask questions or contribute to his project via his forums. Also, return here and share with us what you think about this idea.

Thanks to Toni Bowers for the tip about this site.

18 comments
NightLife6
NightLife6

As with all things, the devil is in the details and at the end of the Money trail. Otherwise, it is long overdue and could have been done years ago, if not for the perceived adverse impact to current core economic entities. All so, someone would have to open the “paperclip” vault and release the info and designs on the Electro Magnetic propulsion / shielding system for this to become a viable proposal???

Ocie3
Ocie3

an eternal full-employment program for all kinds of engineers, mostly. If it isn't going to go anywhere at "warp speed" -- a.k.a. "faster than light" -- then it won't be anything but a (opium) pipe dream. What, really, could it be other than a monument to extant technology and hackneyed television scripting -- in other words, a monumental waste of money.

sightsandsounds
sightsandsounds

Ill put in $100.If I can Earn 1 1millionith return on the Overspending !!! By MY Calculations, Id be worth a Trillion YEN !

hleveque
hleveque

Very exciting idea, yet simple and achieveable. But how to do it? If the govt gets into it, it will be over-taxed, over-regulated, over-politicized, over-schedule and over-cost. We do not even know this internet were are talking on will be here tomorrow or that we will be allowed to login. Buy an island? Use only private funding? Internal organization? Protection? Infrastructure? Etc.? Lot to think about.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

It's cute; but it's unsound from a practicality and astronautical engineering standpoint. The liquid droplet radiator is just plain stupid. Radiation at that level produces significant thrust. What you'd end up with is a pinwheeling ship, uncontrolable and going nowhere fast. You want to build a real battleship, we can do a Michael (Footfall, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle). It has the advantage of being possible, practical, and doable with current technology. Although rather dirty on take off. If all you want is an efficient (relatively) slow speed ship, something like Discovery (2001), using a ion drive would work.

MarkWAliasQ
MarkWAliasQ

There's talk of infinite life expectancy within the next several decades, if we can't get off this planet soon we'll suffer the fate of all creatures who out grow their surrounding environment.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

This might sound a little crazy but I think this guy is onto something. I thought that the retirement of the shuttle program without a craft to replace it was one of the worst decisions that we have ever made as a county. We need something to inspire us and with that that get us a new foothold in space. I don't this a lot of us appreciate all the advances that were brought about because of the space program. We would develop technology to fill a specific need in space then we would find dozens of secondary applications for a tech here on earth. Even if this craft is a complete failure, what can be learned from building it is more then worth it. If anything it would be the biggest construction project since the great wall of china the jobs it would generate alone, the new industries and manufacturing methods we would have to develop not that could be the silver bullet to this recession. As for making this thing look like the Enterprise, I don’t think that there has ever been a more inspiring concept. Start Trek has probably inspired more people to become scientist, engineers, and astronauts then anything else. I don’t think that we should build the Enterprise, I think we have too, we owe it to ourselves and to Gene Rodenberry.

hleveque
hleveque

as a lowly clerk in a backwater patent office, with only modest future prospects and no known ground-shaking discoveries in theoretical physics. Your attitude will be very common, until we start rolling....and too late by then.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

will be non-existent within a decade, simply because the project will be all expenditure and no income.

hleveque
hleveque

and start over, Dr_Zinj. Your job is to figure out how to DO it, not rattle on about why it can't be done.

hleveque
hleveque

I would certainly assume one funding source would by itself be insufficient. You may need 100 or 1000 or 10,000, but so what? This is a unique singular opportunity, not to be found elsewhere or perhaps never again. Our problem will be making sure they understand they buy nothing but their name on a list - no participation, no control, no stock. It can be done. As the idea catches, I would think funding would go through a critical mass after which it is the least of our problems. Additionally, should human life on earth become nonviable what is your solution?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

You would naturally be totally opposed to all the existing tax breaks, subsidies, beneficial laws, and other government assistance accruing to business. Except, of course, procurement contracts. A project such as this would require decades of guaranteed expenditures with almost no return. What private investor could tolerate such a long-term investment for such a very small chance of return on investment? Particularly without any chance of some form of tax subsidy?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

"Government funding" applies to both direct and indirect funding and subsidies. Which of the Fortune 500 used tax subsidies, government contracts, protectionist laws, or other form of government assistance to reach their current status from their start-up phase? Yeah. Most of them My point was that the level of funding required is beyond the scope and capability of most private entities.

hleveque
hleveque

you understood what you said, but I don't. The govt has no charter from the Constitution to start or fund businesses.

hleveque
hleveque

To prove your point, analyze which of the Fortune 500 relied upon the govt for funding for their start up phase?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

you overlook that the only source of such funding is also the government. My solution should human life on Earth become non-viable? What I hope is that humans would be able to get past their differences and agree on something before that point is reached. What I expect is the same kind of selfish, ego-driven crap the US is currently seeing in the political realm, with the ultimate result being extinction.