Version 4.1 - SD240205.09
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Welcome to the UCIP Academy Advanced Helm and Navigation Course. You will find below a full introduction to the art of flying and navigating a spacecraft, from one as large as a Galaxy or Sovereign class starship to one as small as a shuttecraft or runabout. We have tried to make the course as interesting and involved as possible while still keeping it easy to follow. Good luck!
Lieutenant Commander Edward Devereux
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The helmsman (or flight controller, Conn for short) is a bridge officer broadly responsible for all flight and navigation operations of the starship. In particular, these are:
Conn is responsible for getting the ship to her destination in the most safe and efficient manner possible. The Flight Controller's console displays readings from navigational and tactical sensors, overlaying them on current positional and course projections. Conn has the option of accessing data feeds from secondary navigation and science sensors for verification of primary sensor data. Such cross-checks are automatically performed at each change-of-shift and upon activation of Alert status.
The ship's computer perform's much of the workload for the helmsman. However, computers can make mistakes and it is the responsibility of Conn to detect and correct such errors, reporting them to the appropriate departments (Ops, Engineering and, in extreme cases, the Commanding Officer) if they are serious enough.
The actual execution of flight instructions is generally left to computer control, but Conn has the option of exercising manual control over helm and navigational functions. In full manual mode, Conn can actually steer the ship under keypad control. Care should be taken to keep all manoeuvres within the flight envelope so as not to subject the crew or spacecraft to unnecessary stress unless in an Alert situation.
The ship's main computers make use of primary and secondary navigational sensors to continuously update a record of the spacecraft's location. This is accurate to within 10km at impulse speeds and 100km during warp flight. During very slow sublight maneuvers, e.g. docking operations, accuracies of the order of centimetres can be achieved. Conn is expected to take account of these data at all times, relay the information to concerned parties and report any discrepancies.
During most routine Cruise Mode operations it is likely that the bridge Engineering station will be unmanned. In such situations Conn is the primary bridge liason to Engineering. (S)he is responsible for monitoring propulsion system status and providing system status reports to the Commanding Officer.
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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 Conn 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 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=3×108ms-1. 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.
|Warp Factor||Speed (×c)||Notes|
|(Full Impulse)||0.25||Sublight speed.|
|1||1||Speed of light, c.|
|9||1516||Typical maximum speed
for Starfleet vessels.
|9.9999||199516||Subspace radio speed
with booster relays.
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.
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A bearing is a mathematical expression giving the position of an object with respect to the ship's forward centreline. The first number given is the azimuth (read off clockwise from above the ship) in degrees and the second the elevation, again in degrees; the two are separated by the word "mark."
|Bearing 019 mark 038.|
|The Galactic Quadrants: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.|
Shuttlepods are the smallest type of shuttle, usually carrying 2-3 people at most.
The shuttle to the left is typical, capable of carrying 4-6 people. It has limited warp capability and can be armed with Type IV phasers for special missions.
Cargo shuttles are specifically adapted for carrying bulky and/or hazardous cargoes that cannot be moved by transporter.
On many vessels the Commanding Officer has a small vessel for his personal use, often for diplomatic functions. The example to the left is from a Sovereign class vessel.
The authors made use of The Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual by Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda and The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future by Michael and Denise Okuda in compiling this course guide, as well as previous versions of this guide. Our thanks to the authors of all these works.
The authors recommend that students of this course also read the course guides for Engineering, Operations and Security/Tactical. These four courses (Helm included) cover all main bridge operations; study of one increases the understanding of all the others.
In the event that some portion of the guide is in error please contact the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org. We shall endeavour to correct mistakes as soon as possible.