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Several types of Starfleet shuttlecraft in the Star Trek universe are warp-capable (e.g. see this question).

I was thinking about the fact that a starship can be powered by dual, smaller warp cores with redundancy, just like modern multi-engine aircraft, and was wondering why no one ever thought to replace a damaged or missing warp core on a capital starship with a bank of shuttlecraft warp cores.

Is there a reason why a capital starship could not reach, say, a minimal warp (e.g. Warp 1 or 2) by gutting the warp cores out of a dozen or more Warp 5 shuttles and banking them together? Has this ever been explored?

Obviously, being able to use shuttlecraft engines as a makeshift warp drive would detract from the storytelling aspect of losing a warp core, but is there any in universe explanation of why this would or would not be possible (e.g. computer control not scaleable to more than N cores? fundamentally incompatible technology?)? Do warp-capable shuttlecraft even have standard (or at least standard-ish) warp cores (albeit small), or do they enter warp using some other method?

I would define "reaching warp" as attaining at least Warp 1 for a non-trivial length of time, even if the setup is not sustainable in the long term, is somewhat dangerous or risky (e.g. a 10% chance of a core breach might be OK), or is otherwise not ideal.

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    I suspect it would be like trying to fly a battleship by strapping hundreds of helicopters to it. Theoretically possible, but logistically impossible – Valorum Oct 9 '17 at 13:50
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    @valorum Well, more like trying to fly a Cessna by mounting half a dozen ultralight engines, but that's about the size of it. The question seems to be whether it'd be more like trying to fly a Cessna by installing 50-60 large model rocket motors, instead. – Zeiss Ikon Oct 9 '17 at 13:53
  • Exactly. I'm looking as to whether there is an in-universe reason whether this is literally impossible, so unfeasible that nearly any other solution is considered better, or whether or not the characters just never seem to be smart enough to think of this. – Robert Columbia Oct 9 '17 at 13:56
  • Alternately, is there any in-universe indication that a warp core from a significantly smaller non-shuttlecraft ship can be used in a larger ship? Can the Defiant reach warp using the core from a Runabout? Could the warp cores from the HMS Bounty have been installed on the Enterprise-A? – Robert Columbia Oct 9 '17 at 14:02
  • Well, in general, a spare warp core is very hard to come by when you're weeks from spacedock -- which makes this kind of thing less feasible. Salvaging another ship in space would be a long term operation, not something Engineering could bang out in a few hours (Scotty's gone, after all). – Zeiss Ikon Oct 9 '17 at 14:10
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No (probably).

While in theory a shuttle's warp core (or rather multiple shuttle's warp cores) could be used to create power to help run the Enterprise-D's warp engines, in practice the sheer scale of the ship would make this a next-to-impossible feat of engineering.

Maintaining the Enterprise-D's warp field at Warp 1 (a bubble nearly a kilometer across) requires 20 gigajoules to create the field, and approximately 200 megajoules to maintain it. By comparison, a type 6 shuttlecraft is barely able to produce enough power to sustain a bubble ten metres across for more than a few tens of hours.

Although no specific figures are given in the TNG Technical Manual, we can presume that the power generation capacity of a shuttle's miniaturised Matter/Antimatter engine is going to be into the megajoule range (or maybe even below) rather than the gigajoule range. It would therefore take hundreds of these miniature cores working together to provide enough power for the Enterprise to create a stable warp bubble.

On top of all that there may be additional logistical details with trying to create a stable warp field when working with a power supply operating at a wide variety of differing energy frequencies.


That all being said, Janeway (in VOY: The Void) feels that her shuttles can play a part in sustaining basic life support and other electrical systems even if they can't get the ship to warp.

NEELIX: I used to make a living scavenging for supplies. Let me take one of the shuttles. I might be able to find deuterium on one of those abandoned ships.

TUVOK: The shuttle would be too easy a target.

JANEWAY: I appreciate the offer, Neelix, but we're safer if we stay together.

SEVEN: The shuttles may be useful in another capacity.

JANEWAY: We could use their warp cores to augment power on Voyager.

VOY: The Void

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