Monday, November 29, 2010

Emergancy Repair Shop

Another specialty shop onboard many naval ships is an emergency repair shop. On US military ships, it’s called the DC shop or Damage Control shop. They deal with things like making sure the fire main is working properly and all the fire hoses are properly repaired to fight any fires on ship. They also keep track of things like all the repair lockers (the central areas to hold things to repair any problems like firefighting gear, flooding cleanup, pipe patching gear, hull rupture repair equipment, and shores to hold up sagging bulkheads(walls) and overheads(ceilings). There are so many frames on a ship to each repair locker with an extra locker near the main machinery spaces) and gas masks in case of chemical attacks. These are also the people in charge of the drills that are run weekly to prepare for the possibility of an emergency. Out on the high seas a ship can be hours away from any other ship. If disaster strikes the only help available is the crew so they need to be prepared for anything at any time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Electrician's Shop

The electrician’s shop is one of many specialty workshops designed to make repair easier. If you have a problem, all you need to do is determine what type of problem you have and send a request down to the shop that deals with that type of problem. On naval ships that is a little more complicated because there are a number of specialized electrician shops (one works on phone cords, one works on computer wires, another works on engineering wires, and others work on other wires and cords as well as the power boxes). However, we are talking about a fictional ship. There is no need to create so much confusion; you may just want to have a few divisions in one shop or one helpline for all electrical problems.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Waste Management

Waste Management on a naval ship is called CHT (Collection, Holding, and Transfer). There are three types of disposables on a ship: waste, soil, and solids. Solids are all the things you would throw in your trash such as food waste, paper, plastic, metals, and all that stuff. That is sorted and put in a special room. The paper stuff gets compressed down and all the solid stuff waits until the next port where it gets passed down a chain of crewmembers to the proper dumpster on the pier. Waste is from things like showers and sinks. That is usually recycled back into the ocean unless a country specifically asks that ships not do that near their land, in which case it is held until it can get pumped into a sewer system in port or the ship is clear of their area. Soil is what comes from toilets when flushed and that goes into tanks. Occasionally those tanks are slowly emptied into the ocean water to become part of that ecosystem in a small percentage but often the soil is kept in the tanks until it can be released into sewers at ports.
It seems wasteful to just dump trash in space as the ship goes by. Not only is it difficult to determine where the trash will land at high speeds (if you decide to do it this way I’d recommend waiting until the speed is slowed to discharge) but there is no way for space to recycle the trash. If solids accidently fell over the edge of the ship in water (as happens in many private small ships) the water will eventually reclaim the materials and reuse them. (True, that often takes years or decades.) In space there is nothing to corrode materials so they will merely float in place for centuries and beyond (by modern understanding on space). As to waste, the ocean merely adds it to the salt water there, what little dirt or sweat there is gets strongly diluted in the ocean to be harmless to the environment. If soil gets in the ocean, it also gets diluted instantly to harmlessness, unless it is near land in third world countries that have enough of that type of soil in the water to not allow foreigners to swim in their beaches. In space you will likely need some sort or recycling system, which is why I highly recommend a replicator system for long voyages. As for soil and waste, a water purification system would work well. All you need to decide about your fictional ship is if the dirty stuff separated from the water is reused somehow, burned to ash to store easier, or merely compressed and disposed of by special waste ships that transport it to waste planets or shuttled down to planets to decompose, possibly changing the ecosystem in the process.
Another type of waste you will need to keep in mind concerns the air. Humans need oxygen to breathe safely but we breathe out carbon dioxide. Even as big as any ship is, it will need to create more oxygen to keep everyone healthy. One way to do that is through a purifying system using water, but it could also be done electronically on ships if the right technology exists. How will you deal with all the wastes on your ship?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Brain of Engineering

The log room is the brain of the Engineering Department. This is where all the officers meet each day to discuss any problems or training for that day. This is also where a few important log books are kept, such as the one that says each speed increase or decrease, when it was ordered, and why. Before you start planning this you should decide if everyone will be standing to discuss things with the department head or how many will be sitting? What is the hierarchy among the officers and enlisted at that daily meeting? How any will be present each morning? Also, how many logs are kept there and how are they maintained? Are they computerized, pure paper, or something in between?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Engine Room

The engine room is the main space for the ship’s propulsion power. Here is where you have to decide how big the propulsion system is, how many people are needed to be in the space at all times or how often they have to check on the machinery in the space. (I would recommend at least once a day since this is such a necessary system and computer readings aren’t always accurate. Having someone manually check the gauges daily or hourly although a computer system likely monitors the system may seem redundant but catching a problem or discrepancy fast can mean the difference between a smooth or hours of blackout or not being able to move while they try to figure out why the system won’t operate. Besides, almost everything the military does concerning maintenance is redundant. That’s why things operate so long in the military.)
Also in this room is electrical power system on the ship and you need to decide the specifics on this system as well. Many ships have all the parts of each system in one huge room but with the right machinery you can put it in many rooms or two rooms. On ships with the systems in two rooms, the second room is often called the fire room. Another thing to think about when dealing with power systems is that they give off a lot of heat. If you want to use that heat somehow, such as geothermal energy, it’s helpful but you will likely need a cooling system of some sort to protect the nearby metal or machinery.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Main Engineering Room

The main room for Engineering Department on a Navy ship is called Damage Control Central, or DCC, and in many science fiction shows as Main Engineering. It is basically a room that can monitor every major system Engineering is in charge of from one place. In most of the Star Trek shows Main Engineering as the room where the main part of the propulsion system was, the warp engine. However, in Navy ships DCC is merely a room with a desk, a few chairs, and lots of panels with lights showing alarms and random noises as smaller alarms go off as scheduled or to denote things that are being worked on but that met overload mode. It is less than a minute away from the two main machine rooms: engine room and fire room.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Departments on a Ship

Each US Navy ship is divided into at least seven departments: Engineering, Operations, Deck, Administration, Medical, Communications, and Supply Departments. Each department has its own chain of command based on rank and specific knowledge. (You go to this person to figure out a problem in one system but another person or division to work on another system.) Each department helps each other and the culture on a ship is often one where the right hand washes the left, so to say. When it comes to covering up problems, not so much but favoritism/friendships and favors are a huge part of ship life as it tends to get things done faster.
Engineering Department is where all the engine and power plant would get maintained on your fictional starship as well as all the piping and fuel needs on ship. On Navy ships they also take care of the balance of a ship underway and are the most highly trained to fix any damage created by hitting something or a battle, or even common wear and tear. It’s called Damage Control and their drills are another major part of ship life.
Operations Department runs the ship. They steer the ship and keep an eye on where everything else nearby (other ships, land, reefs, planes, all that) is so they don’t hit anything. Operations is also the department in control of weapons of attack or defense onboard the ship.
Deck Department is the miscellaneous area of the ship. Their main job seems to be making sure the ship always looks its best and to stand look out for what computers may miss.
Administration is the department in charge or all the paperwork involved in updating records, dealing with schooling or college, and all the paperwork involved in weekly ship and system maintenances. You will need to decide how such paperwork is submitted and recorded for inspections on ship so you may want to keep the question at the back of your brain to think about.
Medical handles everything from simple colds to emergency surgery or stitches as well as the basics of specialized medicine like the typical female issues, references for outside surgery, dental issues and exams, vaccinations, and possibly things like pregnancies or life threatening illnesses, depending on how long you plan to be gone.
Communications mainly handles the traffic between ships of the fleet and the wires on the ship as well as many of the antennas aboard.
The job of the Supply Department is to make sure everyone is fed, has all the supplies they need, and has enough sugar, caffeine, and microwavable dinners to be in a mild mood. They run the vending machines, barbershop, post office, the laundry services for the officers, and are well trained for the security of the ship using handheld weapons.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What Is The Focus Of Your Spaceship?

With the basics decided upon, you’re now ready to look at specific rooms. Before you start on the specific layout of your ship, there is one more question to ask yourself: What does your species value most? Do they value strength or kindness, beauty or functionality? You have already decided what type of ship you plan to make, and that plays a roll. A battleship wouldn’t have a lot of passenger space, like a cruise ship or colonization ship likely would. No, a battleship would be full of weapons, possibly more weapons than the engine or power supply could ever use at once while a colonization ship would likely have massive cargo rooms and possibly rooms for farm animals. A cruise ship would likely need less cargo space as they are only out for a few days but they would need many more recreation rooms like sports centers, arcades, and casinos. A flagship may merely be the first of a type of ship built but if you plan to create the ship the admiral of a fleet travels the stars in, be sure there is a lot of people and rooms dedicated to communications between the fleet as well as heavy weaponry in war times and maybe little weaponry in peace times. (Depending on the admiral, the ship could be more of a diplomatic ship meant to be pretty than a ship designed to threaten.) A science ship may have a massive science department, a large medical department, medium to large cargo areas, and little recreation as well as a small security department and skeletal crew to run the actual ship.
That leads me to my next question: Is your culture more interested in functionality or beauty/symbolism? If your ship is designed to be functional then everything has a reason and is as small as possible without destroying morale nor the use of the object. If your culture is religious then they may have everything from the blueprints of the fictional ship to the decorations on the walls or rooms designed specifically for symbolism, which you should understand. If your culture is very artsy then you may have everything with smooth lines, meaningful colors, pictures everywhere, and rooms specified for specific arts, or your culture could be into abstract art and seem chaotic to an outsider.
The choice of what your species chooses to value is up to you but keep it in mind as you decide how many, how big, and what rooms are near each other on your schematics.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Runs Your Ship?

Now that you have the propulsion decided on, as well as the electrical power and a backup system decided on, it’s time to look at another power needed: that of g-force or gravity. The Wikipedia site on artificial gravity goes into more detail but there are a number of proposed ways to make artificial gravity on a space ship. There is rotation, (where a part of the ship rotates to create friction strong enough to form gravity from movement) constant acceleration, (where the gravity comes from the object wanting to go one way and the ship’s movement in space pulls it the other way) mass, (where a huge object would pull everything on the ship near it) tidal forces, (where two ships or masses near each other create some pull on each other felt as gravity) magnetism, (which would require a massive magnet to create gravity to a ship) or some sort of technology that we haven’t thought of yet. However, each system has its problems. Using rotation means adding an extra propellant to move the main part of the ship, extra strength is needed in the structure of the ship to keep it from splitting into pieces, some sort of counterweight is needed, and compensation to avoid destruction by friction and opposing actions from the spinning area. Constant acceleration in itself is a problem due to the energy usage of constantly speeding up and eventually the ship will have to slow down and stop. The use of such a huge object (to create enough gravity to be useful) would add enormous stress to the ship lifting off and building around such a massive object would be annoying. Tidal forces would be hard to maintain on a space ship but may work in a space station situated above a planet or moon. Magnetism of the needed amount would likely interfere with any version of radar or deep-space communication the ship would have as well as screwing with the shipboard systems. (Have you ever put a powerful magnet near a computer card? It’s the easiest way to scramble a hard drive.) It’s up to you to decide which system your species uses because living in zero gravity for long periods of time is not healthy. Bone mass deteriorates and movement becomes harder as injury becomes easier to do.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Runs Your Fictional Ship?

Now that we know how your fictional ship moves through space it’s time to talk about another form of energy. All ships these days, not counting the pleasure ships run by sails, are run by computers (as are all cars, most businesses, even many houses today). How do computers run? They use electricity. That said it would be a good idea to have an electrical plant on your ship. Electricity is created by coiled wires moving through an electrical current and creating an alternating current. However, energy is needed to create the movement of the coils. Nowadays that energy is created by a number of ways such as fossil fuels, windmills, water turbines, and nuclear energy. Although any of those forms could be adapted to work on your ship, they have their problems. Fossil fuels may be difficult to keep on hand and they create waste as well as generally need human aid to monitor or clean up after. Although windmills could possibly be used to harness the movement of space around the ship or the air moving within the ship for ventilation, it would be difficult to make a possible design for harnessing the space around the ship, and what happens when the ship stops for port calls or exploration, or a strong enough design from ventilation to run all the computers on ship. The same goes for water turbines, although steam power may work if properly designed. The steam could move the turbines and go through a system to be recycled so that same water could be recycled and steamed again. Every so often more water would need to be added as no system is perfect, but that system could work for a while or be the backup energy. Just keep in mind the boiler would take time to heat or be constantly on to a lesser degree if it were a backup. Next come nuclear energy which at this time I don’t believe it would make a good electrical plant. As the propulsion power of the ship it could also be harnessed as an electrical power source but to have the containment needed and care needed to protect a crew from nuclear radiation along with a propulsion source could be too much for a future ship once you take into account the other rooms needed on a ship.
That leaves at least two other viable forms of electricity creation to think about: solar power and geothermal energy. Solar power seems pretty cool for space and may be an effective backup energy but you have to remember these ships go pretty fast and try to stay away from stars as they tend to have possibly inhabited planets around them. The likelihood of solar panels on the hull of a ship being able to sustain enough power to run an entire space ship without major glitches or blackouts seems slim. The power creator I would use is geothermal energy. Instead of taking the heat energy from the layers internal of a planet, use the energy already given off to move the ship and create enough electricity to power a space ship.
Here is a site explaining the energy creators I spoke of and how they are made today. Take your pick as to what energy source you want to use but be sure you have some sort of backup, even if it is just a few hours worth of battery power for major systems. (That may work best for things like maintenance or a secondary back up but may not last long during a space battle.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ship Propulsion Part 2

Warp drive, likely the most famous theory for space travel out there, thanks to the Star Trek phenomenon, is currently impossible as the theory states that a bubble is made in space-time around a ship. The bubble is then moved through space and the ship inside it doesn’t move. Although there are theories as to how such a movement is possible and even thought to have occurred already, the power needed to move a ship is massive and far down the road in scientific discoveries. If you plan to use this source of propulsion, it would be helpful to have another form of propulsion on ship as well. While warp engines are useful for long distances they would be useless for moving a ship into a specific orbit or moving short distances. Also, Star Trek has a number of other technologies you may want to think about adding that keep the ship from crashing into planets and stars while traveling at such high speeds.
Another way to travel through space is wormholes. There was at least one species, in a Voyager episode, that traveled by a matrix of wormholes through space. Hyperspace is a theory of traveling through another dimension with different rules to travel faster than light. In the Andromeda series it was depicted as a series of tunnels in space that a ship popped in and out of by activating a special engine. The same basic principle is used in the series Babylon 5 for distance travel. With the right protection from space for passengers, those theories may be the most feasible for humans.
These are just a few present possibilities for movement through space that I found. Another possibility has to do with tachyons and a theory I don’t have the faintest about has to do with quantum vacuum energy or “zero-point energy” on which I found no simple explanation. Remember that as many ideas as there are, there is no way to know how or even if such travel through space will happen for humans. The best we may ever get is to cryo-sleep for years before actually reaching another planet and exploring or colonizing it. This is your book so decide which theory you like best or make up your own. (We never know what alien technology we may be influenced by or some day use…)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ship Propulsion: Which to Use? Part 1

The next thing to think about, and possibly the most basic thing needed on a space ship is the propellant. Modern marine ships use a fuel to move their mechanical propeller or paddle wheels. Space crafts use a chemical reaction to push against space and send them in the direction they want to go. The current method is a chemical reaction but gravity assist is used while out in space to speed a ship on its way around planets. Nuclear engines were tried on aircraft during the Cold War but were deemed too dangerous for the crew as there was no way to safely have the crew near that much nuclear radiation for any period of time. NASA is currently working on developing a fusion engine. Such an engine would cut space travel in half and since the main fuel would be hydrogen, the ship could refuel merely by dropping into an upper planetary atmosphere somewhere (or sending a small cargo ship into a lower atmosphere if purer hydrogen was needed). However, current theories say it would still take two years to go to Jupiter and back from Earth.
Solar sails are similar to wind sailing. The thin sheets of metal with a lot of surface area aim towards a light source, like a star, and photons and solar winds propel the ship where the sails are aimed. A problem with these are that the sails can be influenced by gravity fields of passing planets so they need to be monitored and probably adjusted whenever a planet. Moon, or another star is nearby. However. That effect can be used to an advantage for slingshot maneuvers, or gravity assist.
Another possibility that is scientifically possible from current science but still years from usable is antimatter. Antimatter is what powered many ships in the Star Trek series but it would be very difficult to create enough antimatter to move a ship by present technologies. However, scientists believe that areas in space may have huge clusters of natural antimatter so you could always have them stopping at times to refuel. Another problem with antimatter may be that it could be similar to oil in that it takes thousands of years to regenerate. Once a supply is gone, it’s gone. However, little is known about natural antimatter at the moment so use it how you want in your stories.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Replicator or Not?

Something we should probably stop and think about before deciding what is in the ship is if your ship has what in Star Trek is called a replicator. In essence it creates things out of seemingly nothing. The technology behind the action shown on screen is that matter, usually waste or stored material is kept somewhere whether in a random shape of minerals or in pure energy form. When someone wants something they go to the replicator, input their desire, and matter is sent to that replicator to be changed into whatever the person asked for. On TV stuff seems to show up out of nowhere with no explanation of how it got there, although in the Enterprise series the engineer nearly tells school kids that bodily waste is broken down to be made into new food and materials. Here is an article on how such material may be in its early stages already. To use this technology you will likely need to decide the ration limit each person gets (does it exceed the daily replenishment amount?) and how much raw material is brought for emergencies such as broken parts or new crew members. Are your replicators strong enough to repair battle damage? How long does it take to replicate massive things? If you don’t want to store much or the ship only stays out a few days a trip it may be possible to not keep stores of extra materials. Personal waste can recreate the food needed and the broken parts can replace themselves by being put in the replicator and the material replaced. What if things get lost in space, either by needing to jettison cargo holds for faster flight or by holes in the ship from a battle. What will your crew do then? How will they get more spare material?
Keep in mind that though replicators are an awesome explanation in stories, they may be expensive to obtain or hard to maintain. If you decide not to have a replicator, or whatever you call it, you will need the cargo space for food, spare parts, and emergency supplies.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Name Your Ship

Now that you know the basic look of your ship, you may want to name it. That may seem simple but don’t just pick a name that sounds cool. Names have meaning or are meant to imply something. Although a parent may pick a favorite name or a relative’s name for their child, a ship’s owner has likely saved up for a long time to buy their dream ship. Serenity, from Firefly is a good example. Mel dreamed of being his own boss and sticking it to a government that he didn’t agree to so his ship was named after a battle that reflected those thoughts. If your ship is part of a fleet and not owned by any one person, such as all of the main Star Trek ships, the name needs to be more generic. Many US Navy ships today are named after battles, people rewarded for heroism, and cities.
Something else to decide is what the name of the class your ship is from. Even commercial companies won’t build a different ship for each customer without a substantial extra fee and even then they would likely continue making that class, maybe with a few differences on the hull or switching rooms around inside. That being the case, your ship is likely one of many and has a class name. Here is a Wikipedia page saying how some countries name their classes.
Another thing to mention at this stage is usage. Although you probably already know if your ship is designed for exploration, colonization, conquering worlds, rummaging asteroids for debris or minerals, or commanding the fleet, it’s good to have a clear picture of what your ship is designed for. If you need ideas, here is a list of general ship types and specific classes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ship Design

Now that you’ve protected your home world and whatever colonies your species may have you can focus on a space ship. Are you planning to make a single ship or a basic design for a class of ships? If you want to have an intergalactic war, it may be helpful to know the ins and outs of the different classes of ships involved. Now that can be a lot of work so if you don’t want to do that you may merely want to know the key points such as fire power, defenses, speeds, and captains as well as anything else you think may be helpful in your war.
However, if you’re looking to focus on one ship or class, the first thing you may want to decide on is what the ship will look like, at least a basic idea. Is it a single shape or a combination of shapes? Remember as you plan your ship that it needs to be aerodynamic. That means that rounded lines are easier than sharp points that space travel would likely erode down and that long flat surface areas on the front of the ship slows it down. The cube ship the Borg used in Star Trek may come to mind but if you watch the shows or movies you’ll notice that the Borg travel through space with a corner pointed forward, not its flat surface. Once it stops the ship rotates so a flat side is seem on screen but the corner going first shoves the air, or space, it goes through to the side so it can pass. If the flat side were forward, the ship would need much more power to move and never reach very high speeds. You’ll notice the same idea in use today on cars. That sleek design isn’t just for show. Smooth lines attribute to the speed that many long for and make the car more expensive.
For ideas on ship design, click here and go down to the bottom of the page. Click on one of the show names to see the ships featured on that show.