Drexfiles DS9TM Runabout Pics

The Danube class is one of my favorites, bar none, save for the silly strap things.

Though I strongly approve of this concept of the runabout (and would’ve loved to have seen deposited modules somewhere), it would have been great if the interior and exterior design had matched up better with it. (But, alas, it was only TV . . . yet so much matched up so well.)   Such a notion would make the runabout similar to the Sikorsky Skycrane, but with swappable modules for the underside.

As it stands, however, I don't think the runabout's interior as seen matches up with the concept of either a U-shaped cargo pallet thingy (as seen in some production sketches) or the nifty room-to-go modules that Drexler shows us in the link above.

For help imagining this a bit better, from Amberwolf are some excellent pictures of a runabout model built without the
center section in place.  As you can see, the cockpit module and aft
section would attach to the spine, though the model builder did not know of the central hallway idea from the production sketch and Drexler DS9TM renders and thus left it out. 

Externally, this design concept is somewhat unsatisfying.  The underside of the ship's aft section does not appear to have any
connection of the underwing impulse and end-of-wing warp drive system
to the ship, save for at the very top of the wings.  While Star Trek technology would certainly allow for such adventurous designs, it makes the runabout seem quite fragile, especially when you ponder incidents like the tractor beam from the lower aft section in "Paradise"[DSN2].   Less subjectively, however, we have Sisko’s impulse drive modifications in “Blaze of Glory”[DSN5],
when he
enters a Jefferies tube out of a small hallway or closet of some kind
(all we see is a doodad-covered wall).  

Why is this a problem?  Because for the Sikorsky runabout idea to work, we need a central corridor that connects the fore and aft compartments while also providing access to the special cargo/work modules.  

But the presence of Jefferies tubes throws that out of whack, because their existence requires a
few things.   First, that there is a full deck-height area for the
closet (which prevents us from imagining this Jefferies tube up along
the spine).   Second, that if the tube is going into the wings (e.g.
sideways from the center section toward the warp drive nacelles), that
there must be a second Jefferies tube on the other side.  But instead
we see doodads and not another access hatch, so therefore the hallway
must be on the side of the ship.   Alternately, the tube runs fore to
aft (or vice versa), requiring two tubes running along the side of the
ship, but still we lose the cargo module in that case, since it would
still have to be integrated with the ship and not a removable component.

Then there are internal issues.  Most notably, we have “Timescape”[TNG6] which shows a big wall with doodads (referred to at Ex Astris as the pentagonal console wall) right where the central corridor should be.  To move forward toward the cockpit, you apparently have to cross the door threshold and go left, on the port side of the ship.  The TNG people never go right.  While not proving the lack of hallway or other access, it also means there is no proof they exist.

And of course in all the DS9 episodes generally, the aft part of the cockpit has no central corridor.  Instead it featured the pentagonal console wall either behind the door or in place of it (suggesting that it may move, because otherwise it was completely blocking access to most of the ship).  Later DS9 even moves the transporter there, and the hallway on the starboard side is visible.  ("Timescape" shows Picard and Troi cross in front of the pentagonal wall from the port side, implying that a portside hallway should also exist.)

Of course, the entire area inboard of the tiny winglets is part of the room behind the cockpit, which later got the transporter placed within it (though curiously, we do not see the second, smaller set of windows even then).  So while there's enough extra room on the rear end of the cockpit module to allow for central corridor access if we assume that the port and starboard corridors beside the transporter or pentagonal console wall merge again, this solution is somehow unsatisfying . . . why waste what little space the ship has with so much walkway?

Most of the solutions that allow us to keep the cargo modules as such thus seem very inelegant, and I don’t know what the solution here would be. Two hallways along the exterior around a central space seems odd, especially given the strap-thing on the outside of the runabout hull. And if there were such a large central space, one might be tempted to assume it was engineering, and place the warp reactor there and upright, barring contradictory Okudagrams.

We could presume a peculiar S-shaped hallway, except there's no evidence for that at all.   Or we could presume that there is somehow a central hallway that takes a number of jigs and turns for no apparent reason in such a small ship.  But for most of these, you have a ship that’s “hard coded”, if you will, with only the rollbar allowing mission-specific modules. That’s fine, but not as satisfying a design as the Sikorsky-esque model.   After all, if the ship does not have swappable modules, why the devil does it have the strappy thing?

My preferred conclusion?  Well, I think there's gotta be some sort of use for the strappy things . . . e.g. that something is removable.  I also see no reason to require the ship to lift off in order to dislodge any removable item, because that seems silly even given antigrav tech.   I also don't like the notion that the various parts are connected only by the spindly spine. 

Ergo, I would argue that the wings and aft section are joined together much more.  If you're looking at the underside image of the Amberwolf model, I would say the aft section extends further forward and makes contact with two-thirds or so of the underwing structure, allowing additional integrated (i.e. permanent) space.  This would be the location for the Jefferies tubes, from hallways on each side.  (Note that I don't think the starboard hallway extends all the way, which is why Picard and company always went port.)

You can get a sense of my aft section size preference by looking at this image from MFI.  I would have the aft integrated section extending all the way up to the "science lab"/"crew module" boundary in that image, or nearly so, with the modules listed on that image being the swappable modules.

I would also argue that the cockpit is connected by much more than just spine, but that instead there is some central access and walkway accessible from the cockpit, whether via port or starboard (though hopefully only one at a time, with the other side being toilet or some other useful space as in the MFI image).  And that instead of four Drexler-esque modules, there are two, and they can be dislodged by turning the front outward and sliding them out between the nacelle and potentially-movable winglet, with the ribbed section just behind the winglet serving as a seal and swinging space for when the modules are being turned.   These modules would end just behind the intake-looking part of the wing, just in front of the vertical feature going between wing and upper reactor cover.

As for the number and orientation of the warp core(s), I'm not married to any particular idea.  However, it would make sense to me if the reason that Picard and company had to make a left turn was because of a nice slim vertical reactor on the other side of the wall.  We already know that there are separate port and starboard antimatter pods, though, so I could live with multiple cores . . . but that topic will have to wait for another posting.

Is my conclusion canon?  No.  Since we don't see the underside of the runabout much if at all, there's no way to tell precisely what it really looks like under there, and therefore what might be removable.   However, I find it compatible with canon, and probably a bit more compatible than most alternatives.

(Personally, I always fancied the idea of the rear section being capable of swap-out, too, up to and including the crazy notion of a shuttlebay-esque module for vehicle/probe launch and recovery.  But, alas, I think my present conclusion might be imcompatible with that.  Oh well.)

(Note:  This posting needs pictures in it, and I'll try to edit them in later.)


  1. There is not reason we need to assume all runabout interiors are the same. Consider real world military and civilian aircraft. Two aircraft may have drastically different internal space despite looking nearly identical from the outside. Most Hughes 500s have backseats, but the Border Patrol flew ones that had an extended full tank sitting there. The H-60 Blackhawk has countless variations, yet they were in service and often produced at the time. I see nothing wrong with the concept that some runabouts may have 4 swappable modules while others have only 2 or even none (except why have the silly strappy things).

    Some may argue that it makes no sense to have some runabouts modular and not others. But remember, as advanced and enlightened as Starfleet may be, it is still a bureaucracy; and it wouldn't be the first stupid thing they did.

  2. Spock says " It was left by a super-race known as the Preservers. The key phrase here is ,known as --" not named. The race was named by those who didn't know anything else about the super-race, but that they preserved races and species; therefore they simply used that descriptive phrase.