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Engineer proposes $1 trillion USS Enterprise

Engineer proposes $1 trillion ...
It may not be cheap, but it would at least be enormous (Image: Build the Enterprise)
It may not be cheap, but it would at least be enormous (Image: Build the Enterprise)
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It may not be cheap, but it would at least be enormous (Image: Build the Enterprise)
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It may not be cheap, but it would at least be enormous (Image: Build the Enterprise)
Anatomy of the Gen1 Enterprise (Image: Build the Enterprise)
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Anatomy of the Gen1 Enterprise (Image: Build the Enterprise)
The VentureStar lander design by Lockheed Martin was a single-stage-to-orbit reusable similar to that proposed by Dan for use by the Enterprise Gen1 (Image: NASA)
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The VentureStar lander design by Lockheed Martin was a single-stage-to-orbit reusable similar to that proposed by Dan for use by the Enterprise Gen1 (Image: NASA)
Of course, were it to be built, the Gen1 would not be the first real world spacecraft to bear the name Enterprise
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Of course, were it to be built, the Gen1 would not be the first real world spacecraft to bear the name Enterprise
View gallery - 4 images

An anonymous electrical and systems engineer going only by the moniker BTE-Dan has posted surprisingly detailed plans for a full-scale, functioning Starship Enterprise that he claims could be built in 20 years. Though it may be tempting to scoff at such lofty ambition, the Build the Enterprise website (up all of one week) includes specifications, costs, mission plan and funding strategies, all suggesting that a serious amount of thought has gone into creating a real world counterpart to the icon spaceship of the TV and movie series, Star Trek.

The project appears to be born of Dan's frustration with humankind's present spacefaring efforts. Dan more or less dismisses the International Space Station for its lack of gravity and cramped quarters, describing its toilet facilities as "comical and primitive," and musing how the money may have been better spent. Dan's answer? A full-scale USS Enterprise similar in form, dissimilar in function to that of the TV and movie series; that would operate as "a spaceship, a space station and a spaceport," and be home to a thousand people.

Though similar in scale and appearance to the USS Enterprise ("it ends up that this ship configuration is quite functional," Dan writes), the "Gen1 Enterprise" would be functionally very different. Firstly, the main nuclear-powered ion engine (boasting 1.5 GW of power) would strictly limit the Enterprise to intra-solar system missions, being incapable of anything approaching faster-than-light speeds. However, Dan claims that the Gen1 would be capable of reaching Mars from Earth within ninety days, and reaching the Moon in three. Comparatively rudimentary compared to the NCC-1701 portrayed on screen, Dan's Gen1 proposal is somewhat analogous to the real world "Tricorder" we looked at last month, being one imaginary technology scaled back to meet present day technological possibilities - though obviously this is a rather more ambitious scheme.

Dan claims that the Gen1 would have ample living space and could generate gravity of 1 g. This would be created by a rotating magnetically-suspended gravity wheel housed within the Enterprise's familiar saucer-shaped section. A counter-rotating ring is also proposed in order to prevent the body of the ship rotating. Dan suggests that the second ring might be filled with water, propellant, or other materials that would be needed aboard ship.

Anatomy of the Gen1 Enterprise (Image: Build the Enterprise)
Anatomy of the Gen1 Enterprise (Image: Build the Enterprise)

In lieu of a transporter beam Dan proposes a "Universal Lander" which would act as a ferry when the Enterprise operated as a space port in orbit around the Earth, Moon or Mars. The lander would be capable of relaunching from planets using only the rockets and fuel it carried on board, without need of additional boosters.

Constructed entirely in space, Dan claims that, over 20 years, the Gen1 Enterprise, would cost no more that US$1 trillion to build. This is hardly surprising when one considers that it would be 960 meters (3150 feet) long and have a mass equivalent to 28 Saturn V rockets (or about 85 million kilograms or 187 million pounds).

As expensive as it sounds, Dan claims the the project would constitute only (I say only) 0.27 percent of the United States' GDP, and would allow the construction of ever-more advanced Enterprises every 33 years. Dan claims this compares favorably to the Apollo era, when NASA's budget averaged 0.5 percent of the country's GDP. Further, at a spend of $40 billion per year, Dan reckons this equates to 1.1 percent of the 2012 budget.

Dan's also cooked up an ambitious mission schedule that would first put the Gen1 to use as a space station, before sending it on missions to the Moon, Mars, Venus. Subsequent missions would see it diverting asteroids and sending hydrobots to Europa.

If this sounds batty, consider that Dan's idea has clearly caught the public's imagination. In the week since its launch, traffic to Dan's website has spiked from 100 visitors per day to over 40,000, forcing him to purchase a dedicated server. The website is well worth a browse, but bear with it as it does run a little on the slow side. She just can'nae take it. (Sorry.)

A video demoing gravity wheel functioning can be seen below.

Source: Build the Enterprise, via Universe Today

Gravity Wheel in USS Enterprise

View gallery - 4 images
40 comments
MasterG
How has he overcome the devastating effect of micrometeorites? A force field?
yinfu99
I imagine our laser tech these days is up to it. Scattered micro lasers to target and destroy any micrometeors.
Snake Oil Baron
Isn't this overly reliant on a fictional design at the expense of practicality? While you might be able to get the three engines to keep the ship straight, a breakdown would cause a continuous spiral. Put the big engine along the central axis and any auxiliary engines symmetrically around the side. Then put your gravity wheels anywhere along the main axil. The original Enterprise design was for a ship which did not need to obey currently known physical laws because of a "warp bubble" Without that, the reason for the Enterprise become nonsense.
VoiceofReason
It's ambitious. I like it.
Here's the thing. If we can send enough robotic manufacturing out to the asteroids, we don't need any people out there for a while. Let them build a large factory first. Very soon not only would it be self sustaining, it would allow us to the flexibility to colonize the moon and mars.
Plus if aliens do show up, having the Enterprise in orbit would be a great deterrent. "Hey, we thought it was just a TV show!"
Dennis Schmalzel
While I love the Enterprise... it is probably one of the least efficient designs ever contemplated for a space vehicle.
I do agree that we need to do SOMETHING. I just think that the Asteroid Mining guys have a much better plan to make our move into space a reality.
Flipider Comm
Albert Einstein stated that if your motion was to reach the speed of light. Your mass will be equal to energy. Not that you will be energy. Your mass with your forward motion combined would be greater than energy alone and you would thus be expelling more energy into the universe than absorbing and be a universal source of energy.
The trick was to created a static warp bubble or static warp field that would drain and absorb energy from the contents in the subspace of the bubble. The warp bubble is traveling at the rate of speed of energy and you being some of the contents in the warp bubble would not be in motion as you would be out of this bubble.
Hyperspace is the result of how the warp bubble interacts with the outside universe. The warp bubble putting it's contents in the realm of space that there is no reaction of energy and giving way to faster than light travel.
Your also missing the plasma injectors between the engines magnetic thrusters and is needed to move through Hyperspace.
There is no deflector to create a warp bubble.
The ion engine is the impulse drive.
MasterG
What we need before any planning is a list of all known aspects this is likely to face, then design solutions for each point with redundancies and then and only then do we design it. I applaud his efforts on this but a global forum needs to get together first and figure out as many possibilities and probable threats from spiralling off into the void right down to being scoured by space dust. Yes this should definitely be on kickstarter. Before the only way to unify your people was by identifying the enemy (us vs them), now we are socialists lol (facebook etc.) we have turned the bend we can do this together (them IS us)
Slowburn
If we are going to build a spaceship based on a fictional design Arthur C. Clarke's Discovery could be built with our current understanding of physics.
voluntaryist
First things first. Before going to the moon, or anywhere else, we need to build a space elevator. This would allow quick, cheap transport of cargo to a city. The city (new earth) would take advantage of zero gravity to manufacture goods and launch spacecraft. It should be self sustaining in every way and sovereign. First things first.
Chris Carr
If I had the money I would have McKinley Station built. My McKinley station would be a full-fledged space resort with suites, restaurants, a zero-g spa and recreational facilities, docking bays [for shuttles,] and ship[-building] yards.