Under certain stress conditions, the WPS (Warp Propulsion System) may sustain various degrees of damage, usually from external sources, and much of this may be repaired to bring the systems back to flight status. Complete, irreparable, and rapid failure of one or more WPS components, however, constitutes a catastrophic failure. Standard procedures for dealing with major vehicle damage apply to WPS destruction and include but are not limited to safing any systems that could pose further danger to the ship, assessing WPS damage and collateral damage to ship structures and systems, and sealing off hull breaches and other interior areas that are no longer habitable.
Fuel and power supplies are automatically valved off at points upstream from the affected systems, according to computer and crew damage control assessments. Where feasible, crews will enter damaged areas in pressure suits to assure that damaged systems are rendered totally inert, and perform repairs on related systems as necessary. If the WPS is damaged in combat, crews can augment their normal pressure suits with additional flexible multi-layer armor for protection against unpredictable energy releases. Engineering personnel may elect to delay effecting system inserting until the ship can avoid further danger. Exact repair actions dealing with damaged WPS hardware will depend on the specifics of the situation.
In some cases, damaged hardware is jettisoned, although security considerations will require the retention of the equipment whenever possible. In the event that all normal emergency procedures fail to contain massive WPS damage, including a mult-ilayer safety force-field around the core, two final actions are possible. Both involve the ejection of the entire central WPS core, with the added possible ejection of the antimatter storage pod assembly. The first option is deliberate manual sequence initiation; the second, automatic computer activation.
Core ejection will occur when pressure vessel damage is severe enough to breach the safety force-field. Ejection will also occur if the damage threatens to overwhelm the structural integrity field system enough to prevent the safe retention of the core, whether or not the WPS continues to provide propulsive energy. The survival of the crew and the remainder of the starship is deemed in most cases to take priority over continued vessel operations. If the impulse propulsion system is operable, vessel movement may be possible to enhance survival prospects. Scenario-specific procedures within the main computer will suggest the proper actions leading to personnel rescue. During combat operations, the core will be commanded to self-destruct once a safe distance has been achieved.
Damage sustained by the antimatter storage pod assembly may require its rapid ejection from the Engineering Hull. Since the antimatter reactant supply possesses the energy potential to vaporize the entire starship, multiply-redundant safety systems are in place to minimize the failure conditions of the pod containment devices. Structural or system failures would be analyzed by the computer as with the warp core, and the complete pod assembly would be propelled away from the ship. A manual ejection option, while retained in the emergency computer routines, is not generally regarded as workable in a crisis situation, due mainly to timing constraints related to magnetic valve and transfer piping purge events.
EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN PROCEDURES
Operational safety in running the warp propulsion system (WPS) is strictly observed. Limits in power levels and running times at overloaded levels could be easily reached and exceeded. The system is protected by computer intervention, part of the overall homeostasis process. Starfleet human-factors experts designed the operational WPS software to make overprotective decisions in the matter of the health of the warp engine.
Command overrides are possible at reduced action levels. The intent was not to create human-computer conflicts; rather, command personnel are trained to use the software routines to their best effect for maximum starship endurance. Emergency shutdowns are commanded by the computer when pressure and thermal limits threaten the safety of the crew. The normal shutdown of the WPS involves valving off the plasma to the warp field coils, closing off the reactant injectors, and venting the remaining gases overboard. The impulse propulsion system (IPS) would continue providing ship power. In one shutdown scenario, the injectors would be closed off and the plasma vented simultaneously, the system achieving a cold condition within ten minutes. High external forces, either from celestial objects or combat damage, will cause the computer to perform risk assessments for “safe” overload periods before commanding a system throttleback or shutdown.
ENGINEERING OPERATIONS AND SAFETY
All warp propulsion system (WPS) hardware is maintained according to standard Starfleet mean time between failures (MTBF) monitoring and changeout schedules. Owing to the high usage rate of the matter/antimatter reaction assembly (M/ARA), all of its major components have been designed for maximum reliability and high MTBF values. Standard in-flight preventative maintenance is not intended for the warp engine, since the core and the power transfer conduits can be serviced only at a Starfleet yard or starbase equipped to perform Class 5 engineering repairs. While docked at one of these facilities, the core can be removed and dismantled for replacement of such components as the magnetic constrictor coils, refurbishment of interior protective coatings, and automated inspection and repair of all critical fuel conduits. The typical cycle between major core inspections and repairs is 10,000 operating hours.
While the WPS is shut down, the matter and antimatter injectors can be entered by starship crew for detailed component inspection and replacement. Accessible for preventative maintenance (PM) work in the MRI are the inlet manifolds, fuel conditioners, fusion pre-burner, magnetic quench block, transfer duct/gas combiner, nozzle head, and related control hardware. Accessible parts within the ARI are the pulsed antimatter gas flow separators and injector nozzles. A partial disassembly of the dilithium crystal articulation frame is possible in flight for probing by nondestructive testing (NDT) methods. Protective surface coatings may be removed and reapplied without the need for a starbase layover. Inboard of the reactant injectors, the shock attenuation cylinders may be removed and replaced after 5,000 hours.
Within the warp engine nacelles, most sensor hardware and control hard lines are accessible for inspection and replacement. With the core shut down and plasma vented overboard, the interior of the warp coils is accessible for inspection by flight crews and remote devices. In-flight repair of the plasma injectors is possible, although total replacement requires starbase assistance. As with other components, protective coatings may be refurbished as part of the normal PM program. While at low sub-light, crews may access the nacelle by way of the maintenance docking port.
Safety considerations when handling slush and liquid deuterium involve extravehicular suit protection for all personnel working around cryogenic fluids and semisolids. All refueling operations are to be handled by tele-operators, unless problems develop requiring crew investigation. The key hazard in exposure to cryogenics involves material embrittlement, even in the case of cryoprotective garments. Care should always be taken to avoid direct contact, deferring close-quarters handling to specialized collection tools and emergency procedures.