Building the UES Trillium model starship

I love Star Trek.

I really, really do. I love it in the way I love pizza or computers. In and of itself, it’s fantastic, but it’s also a platform for creativity, iteration, innovation, and personal vision.

I have had a particular model starship build in development for a while, for a capital ship and several support craft that would push the design and story of Star Trek beyond its current canonical endpoint at the end of Voyager. Thing is, it will be a massive undertaking, both from the design side and the execution side, and I simply don’t yet have the skills that I need to accomplish it as I see it. It’s one of those things I can comfortably hunker down on and design for a year or two or more before really starting, since it’s going to be such a detailed, intricate build.

So in the interim, I’ve been working up a parallel project – a much simpler-to-execute vision of a much simpler-to-design starship based on the exhaustive work done by Masao Okazaki at the Starfleet Museum. He details an early era of the Star Trek universe, sometime between Enterprise and The Original Series, in which Starfleet and the United Earth Space Probe Agency (a successor to NASA) are both building starships to combat the threat of the Romulans.

Image via Click to visit the site.

The UESPA ships share a common design language – twin spheres forming the bulk of the aft hull, with a cylindrical or tapered forward hull. One of the spheres, according to Masao’s extensive documentation, houses a spherical matter/antimatter engine that powers the ship’s systems. This is not my favourite design aesthetic in the extended Star Trek universe, but it’s strangely compelling in its utilitarianism.

Image via

One of the things that I felt was missing from Masao’s fleet is a 22nd-century riff on the corvettes of World War II, a costal destroyer-escort that would protect convoys from Romulan ships that operate using stealth technology. The UESN corvette would be a hunter-killer for these in the way that the small, manoeuvrable Canadian ships would

The other thing that was missing from the Starfleet Museum is any recognition of the design lineage or plot of Enterprise. There’s so much design lineage that was created in that show that is just not present in Masao’s work and could be incorporated in some way, showing a clear coming-together of

star trek uespa romulan war corvette
An orthographic view of the Trillium — a Photoshop-enhanced version of a series of sketches.

Some initial thoughts about the in-universe ship, all subject to change as I develop the model:

Length 94 m
Draft 34 m
Beam 52 m
Mass 220 000 t
Number of Decks 7
Crew Compliment 75
Embarked Craft 2 atmospheric-capable sublight shuttlepods
Warp drive USIP-II spherical cavity M/AM reactor with 2x Endurance C nacelles
Velocity Cruise: warp factor 4, supercruise: WF 4.4, maximum: WF 4.96

I’ve had the first couple of pieces assembled for a while, but have been stalling on the bow section because my first couple of tries were kind of dismal. In fact, I accidentally destroyed my first attempt to build this model starship and was not particularly dismayed. That should tell you how bad it was. But undeterred, I went to the dollar store, bought a couple of clearance-item Christmas ornaments for the aft hull, and slapped them together. And then they sat, untouched, on top of my workbench for months.

I’m not good at conceiving things in 2D and then making them work in the real world. It’s just not a talent I have, and it infuriates me. I can, however, work quickly to prototype in 3D. I did it when I built my workbench:

workbench cgi
A to-scale 3D workup of my workbench, done in 3DS MAX.

Not only does it help me visualize a final result, but using real-world units gives me exact measurements to use when I’m actually doing construction, so I end up with something pretty darn close to what I planned:

The completed workbench, with only minor changes.

I measured the sphere that made up the main hull and built the bow section to scale (with a couple of modifications) in 3DS Max.

I dropped it into another Autodesk app, the free 123D Make, and generated slices and plans in the thickness of the styrene I’m planning to build the superstructure out of (0.40″).

123d make

Thus far, since my results have been less than stellar, I didn’t want to go to production right away. I’m discovering that I’m becoming increasingly cautious in my work, both personal and professional, as I get older. So I wouldn’t waste time and money ruining good styrene without knowing if this would work. I found some stiff cardboard lying around, tweaked the plans to accommodate its new thickness, and mocked up a quick prototype, skinning it with some painter’s tape I had lying around.

Thanks to a little bit of diligence with the measurements, it fit like a glove. It’s simply wonderful when things work out as intended.

A few nights later, with NJ out of town and the kids completely unconscious from a night of playing soccer, I put on a couple of wonderful (but kind of bad) old flicks, Aliens and Predator 2. Before you jump all over me for saying that Aliens is kind of bad, believe me when I say that I love that movie and I delight in watching it, but some of that dialogue is phenomenally bad. While I enjoyed what apparently was a Bill Paxton-centric double feature, I started assembling the bow using styrene:

I’m not entirely sure why there’s such an optical illusion here – it looks really warped in the photo from this angle, but otherwise it doesn’t at all. I think that it’s got something to do with how thin the styrene frame appears at the front.

Once it’s skinned, it won’t look so funky. I’ll post again when that’s done.

What do you think?

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