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Starship Design Notes, Part 1


I stumbled on the Starfleet Museum site by accident and found it very interesting. This site rekindled the urge from when I was a kid to draw and design make believe starships, although none I did were as good as these. Since Masao already had very interesting outsides done, I contacted him and asked if he would mind it I would try to design the insides. I agreed with him that while the Enterprise NX-01 looks good, it has the wrong look for a ship that is supposed to predate NCC-1701 by 100 years.  However, the ships at Starfleet Museum have just the right look, and the history to go along with them is great. Masao has been a huge help in this effort. I consult him often about the layouts and he critiques all of them.

These notes detail and contrast how the internal design of the ships changes with time, technology, and species and my personal progression and philosophy how I designed them. This document is a work in progress. Ships at the end of the list haven't been designed yet!

Allen Rolfes


General Design Principles

I approached these designs from an engineering point of view (since I am an engineer!) to try and make something that could be, at least in the Star Trek universe, a functioning interior. I started with the human ships of the Romulan War era. I then did the Romulan ships themselves, then branched out to Klingon ships and eventually filled in earlier then later human ships. I came up with design principles that have carried throughout all of them:

These categories would not be absolute. If all the details were filled in there may be some support systems in a crew area deck or some crew areas in a maintenance/support systems deck. These labels are just to indicate what the majority of the area is.


Notes on Each Ship, until 2200

The number after each ship is the launch date of the lead ship followed by the ship type/function. They are in Masao's Star Trek universe chronological order, but not necessarily the order I designed them. In general the notes for each ship apply to future ships of the same type until the technology changes. The first ship has more notes than most since it describes the systems and technology for the first time. Each set of ship notes then describes how technology and design differs from the ships before, and also design differences between species. I also describe any significant deviations I made from Masao's online pictures or specs, then list ships stats and specs which are different from or in addition to those in the main online writeup:

BISON CARGO – 2148, civilian cargo ship

I designed the Bison ships after I had done most of Earth's Romulan War era ships and after designing several other Romulan and Klingon ships. I was trying to go back and 'fill in' those ships before the war I had missed. This cargo ship is based on the one side profile picture of the 'Nakajima Maru' cargo ship. Masao states the Bison was the most popular ship and formed the core design for most large ships throughout the Romulan War era in both military and civilian applications:

BISON CARGO VARIANT – 2148, civilian cargo ship

This was built at the same time as the Bison cargo ship and is a sister ship to the Nakajima Maru which is shown in side profile. The notes focus on the differences from the original Bison cargo ship:

BISON PASSENGER – 2148, civilian passenger ship

This was based on the one side profile picture of the Lufthansa liner 'Mercator':

BISON SLEEPER – 2148, civilian sleeper ship

An example of sleeper ship technology:

BAIKAL – 2148, subspace communications ship

A civilian Bison cargo variant, with the large open cargo bay in the center that extended the diameter of the ship, was modified to carry the first generation ship mountable (however still extremely large) subspace communications array. While the modifications were extensive, they were kept to the minimum necessary to install and maintain the subspace array. Changes from the original Bison variant are:

AMARILLO – 2152, medium cruiser/patrol ship

This was the first ship I designed. It is a medium cruiser not based on Bison but rather on a spherical primary hull attached directly to a smaller cylindrical secondary hull. But it still retains the vertical stacked decks along the long axis of the ship that Bison has:

PIONEER – 2154, heavy cruiser

This was the second ship I designed and the first large ship. It is based on the Bison layout:

ARCHER – 2154, system patrol ship

A small roughly cylindrical hull system patrol ship:

LITTLE NELL I – 2154, M/AM test ship

These early M/AM engines were nothing more than 'supercharged' fusion engines. They started up as a normal fusion reactor (hydrogen fusing to helium in some sort of open donut or spherical cavity at the center of the engine), and then minute amounts of anti-matter was injected to 'supercharge' the engine, much like nitrous oxide supercharges an internal combustion engine. To help with efficiency, the AM was injected at two points in the reaction chamber. This necessitated two separate transfer lines and attachment points to the engine. The engine is much sturdier to handle the increase output with a lot of special equipment to handle and feed the AM into the reaction chamber - this was no easy trick and is what took so long to develop.

The ratio of AM to regular matter that reacts is always 1:1, but extra regular matter is always injected. If no extra matter was injected, the output stream would be only pure energy in the form of heat, light, and radiation. This is not suitable for use to power the warp nacelles. Plasma must power the warp nacelles. The definition of plasma is matter in such an excited state that the electrons have detached from the nuclei. So extra normal matter must be injected to form the basis for this plasma.

These early M/AM engines had a very large excess of matter to AM, like 1000:1. Therefore the energy of 1 part AM and 1 part matter annihilating each other was transferred to 999 parts matter (some of which would also fuse from hydrogen to helium). Therefore, the plasma was not very energized, but this was the limit of what the engines could produce and safely handle at the time. This low energy plasma was referred to as 'low quality' plasma. As the decades passed and engines became better, the amount of extra matter decreased substantially. The engine became much more 'fuel efficient' with regard to the matter stream and the resulting plasma became more and more energized and higher and higher quality.

The warp nacelles that most efficiently used low quality plasma were the oval type, and the weak warp fields they produced were best when centered around the centerline of the ship. This is why many early ships including the Little Nell test ships used oval midline nacelles. As the decades passed and the plasma quality rose, different and better warp nacelles and configurations were built to take advantage of the higher quality plasma to reach higher and higher warp factors. The nacelles eventually became cylindrical in shape, used in pairs, and offset from the ship's centerline.

The ship itself is based on a compact cylindrical hull. Other notes on internal details:

LITTLE NELL II – 2156, M/AM test ship

Based on a part spherical primary hull directly attached to a cylindrical secondary hull that together it has the appearance of a mushroom:

CABBAGE (Romulan) – 2156, heavy cruiser

Romulans are competent ship builders with a technology level is similar to Earth ships of the time. The biggest difference is Romulan ships never switch from fusion to M/AM warp reactors and their early fusion reactors are less efficient than Earth’s fusion reactors. The ship layout is a half sphere primary hull with the secondary hull containing the fusion reactors and the nacelles attached to the back flat end:

CABBAGE TANKER (Romulan) – 2156, military deuterium tanker

Deuterium tanker variant based on the standard Cabbage, most likely built from scratch, not a modified Cabbage. Changes from the original Cabbage are:

CABBAGE CARGO (Romulan) – 2156, military cargo ship

Cargo ship variant based on the standard Cabbage, most likely built from scratch, not a modified Cabbage. Changes from the original Cabbage are:

KRECHET – 2157, medium cruiser/patrol ship

This is the first production M/AM ship built by Earth. It was based on the Amarillo layout:

TANNHÄUSER – 2157, heavy cruiser

This is the first large M/AM capital ship built by Earth. It was based on the Bison layout:

BISON SUBSPACE/COMMAND SHIP – 2157, command/communications ship

Masao mentions in the Hyperion writeup that subspace communications capability was first mounted on a Bison hull before the Earth-Romulan war, and that the equipment, including a 100 meter dish took up essentially the entire ship's function. During the war, other similar ships were modified to carry subspace communications and other sensing equipment to serve as mobile communications/command platforms. This is one of those ships:

TORSK – 2158, light cruiser/patrol ship

A small light cruiser based on a slimmed version of Amarillo/Krechet layout:

FARRAGUT – 2158, fleet monitor

A 'fleet monitor' ship is designed to oversee planetary subjugations. This one is based on the Bison layout:

OLYMPUS MONS – 2158, military cargo ship

Cargo ship variant based on the Farragut:


A variant based on Farragut original design to resupply missiles to ships at the frontline. Changes from Olympus Mons:

REID FLEMING – 2158, military deuterium tanker

Deuterium tanker variant based on the Farragut:

YORKTOWN – 2158, fighter carrier

A warp fighter carrier based on the Bison layout:

MINOTAUR – 2158, fighter

A warp fighter based on a cylindrical hull:

YORKTOWN VARIANT – 2158, military specialized transport

Masao's history mentioned that 4 Archer/Curran type system patrol ships were delivered to their final destination by a modified Bison type ship. I figured it made sense that this be a Yorktown variant since that is itself based on a Bison layout:

POWHATAN – 2158, light cruiser/patrol ship

A light cruiser based on an even slimmer configuration of the Torsk:

CHOWDER (Romulan) – 2158, light cruiser/patrol ship

A light cruiser based on an extremely slimmed down and smaller Cabbage configuration:

CURRAN – 2158, system patrol ship

Based on Archer’s cylindrical configuration but more tapered. Major differences from Archer are:

COMET – 2158, light cruiser/patrol ship

This was the first radically different starship design since the Bisons were introduced. Many technological and design quantum leaps forward are evident throughout the ship. These improvements were being developed during the Romulan War but due to the emphasis on turning out reliable ships quickly, they were not incorporated in the mainline fighting ships. Mainline fighting ships only had evolutionary modifications, not radical ones (the warp engine changing from fusion to M/AM was the one big exception). Comet was the first ship to incorporate all these other new technologies and designs:

CONQUEROR – 2159, heavy cruiser

This was the last large capital ship designed for the Romulan War. It was basically a Tannhäuser with many improvements:

CLAVICLE (Romulan) – 2160, fast attack ship

A design change in Romulan ships based on the flattened exterior and two warp nacelles where it falsely appears the insides have abandoned the vertical stacked deck layout:

DAEDALUS BLOCK 1 – 2160, explorer/research ship

Comet was demilitarized to make the Daedalus:

DAEDALUS BLOCK 2 – 2160, explorer/research ship

This is simply a Daedalus with more weapons:

BISON PASSENGER VARIANT – 2161, civilian passenger ship

After the Romulan War, many civilian Bison ships were upgraded with new M/AM warp engines. This passenger liner was one of them:

D-2 (Klingon) – 2162, heavy cruiser

This was the first Klingon ship I designed. Klingons followed the Soviet style of design: poor technology necessitating clunky designs with multiple large and inefficient backup systems all supported by inadequate industrial infrastructure:

POWHATAN COURIER – 2162, civilian courier ship

Powhatan's retired from military service were sold to civilians who converted them into specialty 'courier' ships. These could carry smaller amounts of cargo or passengers at higher speeds (and at higher price) than the larger civilian carriers available at the time. This is a general purpose courier that can carry some passengers, some container cargo and some larger bulk cargo. Changes to military Powhatan are:

COMET COURIER – 2165, civilian courier ship

Comet's retired from military service were sold to civilians who converted them into specialty 'courier' ships. These could carry smaller amounts of cargo or passengers at higher speeds (and at higher price) than the larger civilian carriers available at the time. This is a general purpose courier that can carry some passengers, some container cargo and some larger bulk cargo. Changes to military Comet are:

DRAGON – 2166, heavy cruiser

A new ship role of 'border patrol heavy interceptor' built soon after the Romulan War designed to be stationed close to border starbases and assault large numbers of advancing enemy ships. It had problems during design and the first production ship shakedown cruise which resulted in many design changes. The layout shown is the final 'as commissioned' model. In addition, the production run cut short and only built in small numbers because the need for a border patrol heavy interceptor was short lived, and Dragon was not amenable to modifications beyond this design role. Main features are:

OCEAN – 2168, military cargo ship

Ocean was the first line of military cargo ships designed from scratch after the Romulan War, not modified Bisons with Romulan War era M/AM engines. It was still a roughly cylindrical ship, but not so symmetrical as the Bisons were:

OCEAN – 2168, civilian cargo ship

Designed solely to haul civilian cargo. Changes from the military version are:

CONSTELLATION PASSENGER – 2171, civilian passenger ship

Constellation was the first line of civilian passenger ships designed from scratch after the Romulan War, not modified Bisons with Romulan War era M/AM engines. It was designed and built soon after the Ocean. The designers didn't just want to build a civilian version of Ocean. They made Constellation a little smaller, sleeker, and faster than Ocean:

WASP – 2174, light cruiser

The cutaway by Masao was more of a running gag than a workable interior. However, I stayed as true to it as possible. The design is a throwback to the Amarillo configuration:

CATARACT (Romulan) – 2175, medium cruiser

15 years have passed since the Romulans lost the war. This was enough time to repair their destroyed infrastructure and make large technological advances in starship design and components which resulted in this ship. The shape of the ship became much flatter and the deck configuration now truly abandoned the vertical stacked decks and instead was a truly flat horizontal configuration:

CONSTELLATION PASSENGER VARIANT – 2175, civilian passenger ship

As M/AM technology made leaps and bounds forward, the designers looked to upgrade the original Constellation. M/AM and nacelle technology was moving so fast the designers realized they would want to upgrade often, but this would be cost prohibitive. So on the first upgrade, the internal M/AM engine and large outboard nacelles were removed and an underslung pod containing the engine and one midline nacelle that was very slightly oval was added. For future upgrades, this entire pod could be replaced with one containing newer technology components without having to overhaul the main body of the ship:

CONSTELLATION CIVILIAN CARGO – 2175, civilian cargo ship

Designed solely to haul civilian cargo. Changes from the latest passenger version are:

MOSKVA – 2179, medium cruiser

The design is moving more towards the saucer primary hull and cylinder secondary hull common in later Earth designs:

MOSKVA TUG– 2182, military tug

Moskva was redesigned to a tug variant to transport newly introduced large cylindrical cargo modules. The secondary hull was shrunk and attached directly to the aft of the primary hull and two more nacelles were added. The new cargo modules were highly adaptable and could be used for container cargo, bulk or liquid cargo, or even military or civilian personnel in a starliner configuration:

CONSTELLATION CARGO – 2182, military cargo/passenger ship

The military was looking for a faster ship that carried more passengers and less cargo to supplement Ocean. Rather than build a new ship from scratch, they modified some refit Constellations:

D-3 (Klingon) – 2183, heavy cruiser

I designed this at the same time as D-2 since it is only as modified D-2:

GAGARIN – 2184, light cruiser/patrol ship

A scaled down version of the Moskva for patrol duty:

HYPERION – 2194, medium cruiser

A subspace communications transmitter is used on a small starship for the first time:

Hyperion was also the first ship to be designed with cargo transporters (personnel transporters did not enter regular service for another ~2 decades). The cargo transporter was designed and perfected in the mid to late 2180's. Several earlier ships including Wasp, Moskva, Ocean and Constellation were refitted with cargo transporters and benefited greatly from them. But Hyperion was the first ship to be designed with them from the start. This had a profound influence on the design of the ship:

PARIS – 2196, light cruiser/patrol ship

A small patrol ship that eliminates the neck in between the saucer primary hull and cylindrical secondary hull. The secondary hull is instead attached directly to, and even overlaps the top of the primary hull. This configuration was the basis for many more compact saucer starships in the future:


Credits: All text by Allen Rolfes


Continue to Part 2


Last modified: 26.08.12