This month has seen some new canon with new Lower Decks, Discovery, and a new show: Prodigy. The last is what I’m going to focus on, so be warned before you continue reading that there is one minor spoiler here (so only yellow alert).
It’s not often that I do this since my usual role as Dark Mistress of Lore & Tech is to say ‘No, wait, hold up there’ when it comes to new tech, but this is officially in Memory-Alpha, so this month I get to play Oprah:
“You get a vehicle replicator! And you get a vehicle replicator! And you get a vehicle replicator!”
Yes, it might have only been a fun nod to USS Voyager‘s seemingly near-infinite supply of shuttlecraft while being stranded roughly 70,000 light-years from Federation space, but since appearing in an episode the shuttlecraft replicator is now officially part of Star Trek canon. Now, the ship is an experimental prototype, so for any of the other gee-wow stuff from it, that has to be taken into account. However, we know industrial replicators exist and many ships can be equipped with them, and this piece of technology just makes so much sense (especially since here in the early 21st century we have a 3D printer on the International Space Station and are actively working on designs for printers that can additively manufacture buildings for manned Mars missions). So, we will be writing this up for official release in the near-ish future, but if you want a vehicle replicator on a late 24th century starship bigger than a small scout, assume you can have one.
However, some caveats apply:
- Converting that much energy to mass, or mass to different mass, takes a lot of energy. A key point is established in the episode is that the vehicle replicator is draining power, preventing shields from being reestablished, so if you need a vehicle replicated in the middle of combat you have to decide to give up weapons and/or shields. (Or burn all other reserves expecting to abandon ship).
- Having a store of mass to be converted may also be important. If replicators recycle waste, needing more than one extra shuttles may require ship-wide recycling drive!
- A vehicle replicator takes up substantial real estate and since it’s most logical place is in a shuttle or cargo bay, assume having one means losing a space for a ready-to-use shuttle. You also can’t make shuttles larger than what your ship would normally carry.
- The design needs to have been programmed into the computer, meaning it has been tested and approved by Starfleet Engineering. There will be safety protocols to keep folks from trying to make their own homebrew vehicle for fun (I’m an engineer in RL and know how much idiot-proofing goes into vehicle design).
- Even with a replicator, the build will take time. It doesn’t just appear like food in a dining hall replicator – parts are built up from replicator arms as they are being assembled into the vehicle (despite the show, no, fights shouldn’t be possible there – realistically there would be safeguards to halt program execution if anyone got too close to the assembly area). Also, following onto the above point, once assembled, the computer would run checks and diagnostics to ensure a correct build before releasing it for use.
We may think of more as we work out the database entry, but for now, there you go – you have guidelines for incorporating this into your simm. Happy Hannukah! Or early Merry Christmas, Festivus, or whatever works for you.
- Cam, Dark Mistress of Lore & Tech