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Engineer proposes $1 trillion USS Enterprise


May 14, 2012

It may not be cheap, but it would at least be enormous (Image: Build the Enterprise)

It may not be cheap, but it would at least be enormous (Image: Build the Enterprise)

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An anonymous electrical and systems engineer going only by the moniker BTE-Dan has posted surprisingly detailed plans for a full-scale, functioning Starship Enterprise that he claims could be built in 20 years. Though it may be tempting to scoff at such lofty ambition, the Build the Enterprise website (up all of one week) includes specifications, costs, mission plan and funding strategies, all suggesting that a serious amount of thought has gone into creating a real world counterpart to the icon spaceship of the TV and movie series, Star Trek.

The project appears to be born of Dan's frustration with humankind's present spacefaring efforts. Dan more or less dismisses the International Space Station for its lack of gravity and cramped quarters, describing its toilet facilities as "comical and primitive," and musing how the money may have been better spent. Dan's answer? A full-scale USS Enterprise similar in form, dissimilar in function to that of the TV and movie series; that would operate as "a spaceship, a space station and a spaceport," and be home to a thousand people.

Though similar in scale and appearance to the USS Enterprise ("it ends up that this ship configuration is quite functional," Dan writes), the "Gen1 Enterprise" would be functionally very different. Firstly, the main nuclear-powered ion engine (boasting 1.5 GW of power) would strictly limit the Enterprise to intra-solar system missions, being incapable of anything approaching faster-than-light speeds. However, Dan claims that the Gen1 would be capable of reaching Mars from Earth within ninety days, and reaching the Moon in three. Comparatively rudimentary compared to the NCC-1701 portrayed on screen, Dan's Gen1 proposal is somewhat analogous to the real world "Tricorder" we looked at last month, being one imaginary technology scaled back to meet present day technological possibilities - though obviously this is a rather more ambitious scheme.

Dan claims that the Gen1 would have ample living space and could generate gravity of 1 g. This would be created by a rotating magnetically-suspended gravity wheel housed within the Enterprise's familiar saucer-shaped section. A counter-rotating ring is also proposed in order to prevent the body of the ship rotating. Dan suggests that the second ring might be filled with water, propellant, or other materials that would be needed aboard ship.

In lieu of a transporter beam Dan proposes a "Universal Lander" which would act as a ferry when the Enterprise operated as a space port in orbit around the Earth, Moon or Mars. The lander would be capable of relaunching from planets using only the rockets and fuel it carried on board, without need of additional boosters.

Constructed entirely in space, Dan claims that, over 20 years, the Gen1 Enterprise, would cost no more that US$1 trillion to build. This is hardly surprising when one considers that it would be 960 meters (3150 feet) long and have a mass equivalent to 28 Saturn V rockets (or about 85 million kilograms or 187 million pounds).

As expensive as it sounds, Dan claims the the project would constitute only (I say only) 0.27 percent of the United States' GDP, and would allow the construction of ever-more advanced Enterprises every 33 years. Dan claims this compares favorably to the Apollo era, when NASA's budget averaged 0.5 percent of the country's GDP. Further, at a spend of $40 billion per year, Dan reckons this equates to 1.1 percent of the 2012 budget.

Dan's also cooked up an ambitious mission schedule that would first put the Gen1 to use as a space station, before sending it on missions to the Moon, Mars, Venus. Subsequent missions would see it diverting asteroids and sending hydrobots to Europa.

If this sounds batty, consider that Dan's idea has clearly caught the public's imagination. In the week since its launch, traffic to Dan's website has spiked from 100 visitors per day to over 40,000, forcing him to purchase a dedicated server. The website is well worth a browse, but bear with it as it does run a little on the slow side. She just can'nae take it. (Sorry.)

A video demoing gravity wheel functioning can be seen below.

Source: Build the Enterprise, via Universe Today

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

How has he overcome the devastating effect of micrometeorites? A force field?


I imagine our laser tech these days is up to it. Scattered micro lasers to target and destroy any micrometeors.


Isn't this overly reliant on a fictional design at the expense of practicality? While you might be able to get the three engines to keep the ship straight, a breakdown would cause a continuous spiral. Put the big engine along the central axis and any auxiliary engines symmetrically around the side. Then put your gravity wheels anywhere along the main axil. The original Enterprise design was for a ship which did not need to obey currently known physical laws because of a "warp bubble" Without that, the reason for the Enterprise become nonsense.

Snake Oil Baron

It's ambitious. I like it.

Here's the thing. If we can send enough robotic manufacturing out to the asteroids, we don't need any people out there for a while. Let them build a large factory first. Very soon not only would it be self sustaining, it would allow us to the flexibility to colonize the moon and mars.

Plus if aliens do show up, having the Enterprise in orbit would be a great deterrent. "Hey, we thought it was just a TV show!"


While I love the Enterprise... it is probably one of the least efficient designs ever contemplated for a space vehicle.

I do agree that we need to do SOMETHING. I just think that the Asteroid Mining guys have a much better plan to make our move into space a reality.

Dennis Schmalzel

Albert Einstein stated that if your motion was to reach the speed of light. Your mass will be equal to energy. Not that you will be energy. Your mass with your forward motion combined would be greater than energy alone and you would thus be expelling more energy into the universe than absorbing and be a universal source of energy.

The trick was to created a static warp bubble or static warp field that would drain and absorb energy from the contents in the subspace of the bubble. The warp bubble is traveling at the rate of speed of energy and you being some of the contents in the warp bubble would not be in motion as you would be out of this bubble.

Hyperspace is the result of how the warp bubble interacts with the outside universe. The warp bubble putting it's contents in the realm of space that there is no reaction of energy and giving way to faster than light travel.

Your also missing the plasma injectors between the engines magnetic thrusters and is needed to move through Hyperspace.

There is no deflector to create a warp bubble.

The ion engine is the impulse drive.

Flipider Comm

What we need before any planning is a list of all known aspects this is likely to face, then design solutions for each point with redundancies and then and only then do we design it. I applaud his efforts on this but a global forum needs to get together first and figure out as many possibilities and probable threats from spiralling off into the void right down to being scoured by space dust. Yes this should definitely be on kickstarter. Before the only way to unify your people was by identifying the enemy (us vs them), now we are socialists lol (facebook etc.) we have turned the bend we can do this together (them IS us)


If we are going to build a spaceship based on a fictional design Arthur C. Clarke's Discovery could be built with our current understanding of physics.


First things first. Before going to the moon, or anywhere else, we need to build a space elevator. This would allow quick, cheap transport of cargo to a city. The city (new earth) would take advantage of zero gravity to manufacture goods and launch spacecraft. It should be self sustaining in every way and sovereign. First things first.


If I had the money I would have McKinley Station built. My McKinley station would be a full-fledged space resort with suites, restaurants, a zero-g spa and recreational facilities, docking bays [for shuttles,] and ship[-building] yards.

Chris Carr

Well at least he didn't skimp on the price, which is probably realistic.

I would take a while to build a space shipyard to build such a spacecraft, rendering a total build time of longer than 20 years.

While he is serious, private capital is what would be needed since many world governments including the U.S. are in major debt to ill-afford such a venture, let-alone the practical inevitability of an upcoming economic collapse hampering such an endeavor as well.

Detail of the goals of such a craft are in order, and since the website is presently down due to bandwidth lack, access is limited. Two questions are: Are the goals viable? And if they are, can they be accomplished with less expenditure and time? Getting past the first question might be an 'enterprise' in and of itself.


With 5 nuclear reactors in this ship It might be possible to create a literal diflector shield. It could create a magnetic field(if it could shield the electronics) much like our earth and micrometeors wouldn't be a problem.

Chad Gray

In lieu of the "Universal Lander", I would propose a "Space Elevator". I believe an elevator would be much more efficient and use far less resource material.


Sexy, but illogical. Our only means of creating artificial gravity these days is centrifugal force, and limiting it to one area of the ship is a waste of ship.

It would be far more logical to create a long, tube-like ship with several levels, each traveling at different speeds in order to remain at 1g on every level (other than the center, which would house the main engine(s).

That would make virtually the entire ship good for long-term living space.

A single long tube with various levels rotating at different speeds with a "turboshaft" kind of design, or even a series of powered ramps to get from level to level may not be anywhere near as sexy as a "real Enterprise," but its usefulness would be dramatically greater.

Dave Andrews

Lunar mining would be a more practical approach to space exploration; products manufactured on the Moon could be transported to Earth with much less expense than from the asteroids, and probes manufactured on the Moon could be more easily launched to other destinations than from the Earth, including the asteroids. The Moon is also closer to the sun than the asteroid belt, thus receives more energy per given area of solar collector. So, closer, more material available for mining, more energy available.

Building a space station is a reasonable start to further exploration and exploitation of our solar system, but a space station should not be a destination, but rather a way station on the trip elsewhere. Perhaps it should orbit the Moon rather than the Earth, or be in a location easily accessible from both, such as L5.

It's time to dust of those old L5 colony plans.

William Lanteigne

Meteors can probably most effectively be stopped with a physical shield (aka a piece of thick plastic, or steal, or any thick non-brittle material with a good restoring force), however the ship will need a weak but large range magnetic shield to protect against solar storms. How it will block cosmic rays is beyond me, but maybe they just plan to worry about this in the long term rather than getting too worried short term.

Charles Bosse

I think that he at least partially chose this preliminary design for the same reason that President Ford directed NASA to name the first Shuttle "Enterprise"- ATTENTION! (as well as because of the massive Trekkie letter-writing campaign!). It's worked,too.

If this designer had picked a more "logical" design over this sensationalistic one, how far would it have gotten with the comic-book public? Remember: the "Enterprise" Shuttle was the only one that was never actually launched into Space- she only flew (5 times) when launched from the back of the SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft). I'm sure he would adjust to reason if funding could be found- if so required by the sources.

For now, it's passion over profit(or logic) so DREAM BIG! Hopefully, this will continue to inspire others to do so,as well. Also, I hope this fares better, at least in the realms of the imagineers, than the ill-fated full-size Enterprise reproduction that would have been built in downtown Las Vegas (killed by the unimaginative and insecure Paramount president,stanley jaffe).

Perhaps they could build that as a static display first to function as a University/Research Center: Build a "Starfleet Academy" in the form of the Enterprise- that project was ONLY supposed to have cost $150 million (of course that was a few years ago...)

First things first....


I think BTE-Dan has been into the Romulan ale again.

If he really wants me and many others to take him seriously, he should say he wants to make a real-life version of Earth II. That at least wouldn't reek of the daydream of a wild-eyed high schooler.


“In lieu of the "Universal Lander", I would propose a "Space Elevator". I believe an elevator would be much more efficient and use far less resource material.”

I think we will see a lift and drive powered craft long before we see a “Space Elevator”.


The first step should be a factory of some sort. After that, I think a smaller demonstrator should be built. The Miranda class starship in Trek would be an ideal choice. Most of the parts could be scaled up to make the Constitution class, and it would be a bit more practical.


Why not a "Babylon 5" type station? The technology is closer to 21st century tech.


I find myself in full agreement that the first item is the space elevator. Overall it would be the least expensive way to move material and people power into space and back. Then at the same time that the Enterprise is being built the independent companies that are interested in asteroid mining can be constructing their crafts. Perhaps some type of organization could reside in the space elevators office and hotel space to resolve and coordinate issues between the construction companies on size of hatches, mating configuations ect. If as the article indicated that the Enterprise will be dispatching exploration equipment to the moon, mars, europa and other places of interest, then the second round should be to dispatch colonist. It could very well be that the miners will have found and retrieved water ice and materials from asteroids that they can construct habitats for the colonist and scientist. It may well be until 2245 or earlier that a real interstellar Enterprise can be constructed but there will be a heck of a lot of experience gained by then. By being able to test concepts in space so easily will hasten many advances.

David James

im in.. when do we start?? Got a start somewhere so lets get to it

Michael Raines

Putting aside for the moment that FAR more important expenditures are pressing such as Social Security, medicare, education and feeding and caring for the poor, where would this thing go? On impulse drive how long would it take to get there? After a looooonnnnggg time, the impulse drive will get the ship up to a decent speed, say 0.1c. At that speed immediate course correction would be out of the question, so how would the collision avoidance system work? just read an article stating that free planets are all over the galaxy so blasting them out of the way won't work either. Hey I liked Star Trek too but this is a bid for useless funding that is "where no absurdity as gone before...." If we have the funding for this, that implies the Middle Class is WAAAAYYY overtaxed and deserves a rebate. If there is indeed that much or even close, let's take care of the elderly, finalize Fusion Power, cure cancer once and for all and fund 50 year old's retirement for all. Benefits for Earthlings! If we truly want to leave the Earth, let's start by letting Holiday Inn open a resort on the Moon for starters. Maybe in the distant future, teleportation will let us populate the galaxy. But alas, for today, let's work on what we need doing today.


No to all. The first step to building an interplanetary ship of the size and complexity of the Enterprise is to stabilize life support on Earth. A third of humanity does not have water and electricity, and in that context no one is going to spend a trillion dollars to make this a reality. We have to build a fully sustainable civilization on Earth, and then we will export ourselves elsewhere.

In Star Trek lore, matter replicators eliminated all warfare and humanity entered a golden age of peace - and then we built the first Enterprise.

Shane Buelna

re; Dave Andrews

Why would you want all the spin gravity (angular acceleration) to be the same strength? It would make the ship/station far more complex and low G would be fun and high G healthful. Also a large part of the ship/station should remain in freefall for science and industry.


While I'll give this guy credit, has anyone really paid attention to how really badly designed the Enterprise is? Engines out on those weird pylon things? In the show they admit to having structural integrity fields just to keep the entire ship from falling apart. And while the engine in Dan's design won't be anywhere near as powerful as that of the show, the same problem applies without the benefit of a pseudo-practical solution. Furthermore, where would we build this thing? The only station worth anything is the ISS, and that is definitely no shipyard. Shouldn't we be focusing on building an actual construction yard in orbit before we actually start planning building anything there? This is something that the asteroid mining plan (see elsewhere) will make possible, though it will take a while.

Andrew Christianson

re; Andrew Christianson

Building a shipyard can wait until we have enough space industry that we are building ships from space based resources. Until then assembling the earth built components into a ship is no different than assembling the ISS. It's a real shame all the shuttle's external tanks were destroyed rather than being put into orbit. They would have been so useful.


The good thing is that, once the outer hull is built, you can make improvements over time as long as the internals are modular enough, with a full internal refit every so often. This cuts long term costs. One thing I've noticed is that no one has talked about the internal networking and comms. Does it work by a combination of fiber optic intranet and wifi? Where's the server room(s; only an idiot wouldn't build redundancy for the ship's computer)?

I imagine that the bridge view screen would be projected, like a home theatre.

Scott Parker

While I applaud BTE-Dan's proposal (with its demonstrated appeal to a large sector of the public), separate orbital and travel concepts may be more practical & cost effective.

Wernher von Braun and Walt Disney (through 3 shows -- "Man in Space," "Man and the Moon" and "Mars and Beyond") were the FIRST to make the idea of man moving into space a popular concept outside the ranks of SF readers & fans.

The Kubrick's "2001: A Space Oddessy" re-introduced the Ring-shaped Spin Habitat first proposed by Herman Potocnik in his 1928 book: "The Problem of Space Travel", and made more known by von Braun. The follow-up movie: "2010: The Year We Make Contact" showed the simpler (and less-expensive) Pods Spin Habitat in its mobile variant- The spaceship Leonov with its set of counter-rotating spin habitat pods.

Since we humans crawl before we progress to walking, it may be a better idea to start out with the 2001 & 2010 examples. The twin-wheel Ring-shaped Spin Habitat can start out in a Pods Spin Habitat form before being enlarged to the full ring shape. The spaceship Leonov shows a more practical in-system exploration craft that can keep its 8-18 member crew healthy for the usual duration of independent habitation.


Re; Scott Parker

It's probably better to leave them all on Earth and just use the ships optical network for distrubted processing and data storage on elecro-optical mediums. Hal can drive and Dave and Frank have to use wifi tablets. There will be no bridge, it is surplus weight and another central location when damaged could cost you the ship - and kill off a good number of key crew who are gathered an a single location.


Really? The biggest problem you guys see is meteorites and server rooms? What about the cost to haul the pieces into low earth orbit alone? What about we can't build a space elevator? What about an ion drive not working for interplanetary travel (way too slow)? How the heck is food and fuel gonna get there? How shield from long term radiation effects? Where to send all the garbage and poop?

Anyone notice that rovers and automated machines can do more in space than a human without having to be fed, protected, and it's waste products handled? A robot can wait 20 years and then turn on once it reaches its destination. That's why we're not sending humans into space anymore. It's not efficient.

Maybe we should study science and not science fiction?

Facebook User

Bab 5 would be cheaper. Kim Stanley Robinson's Ares, made from jettisoned shuttle tanks, would be cheaper still. A billion lifestraws per year would be even cheaper than that. Or someone could just buy me a Grumpert Enraged. And some beer.


As far as micrometeorites, there are already efforts to deal with that problem. Many of our satellites take a beating from them all the time. And a piece of rock the size of a marble can make several holes the size of your head when they hit. There are materials being developed now that can withstand the force. I saw a video somewhere recently(i'll try to find and post) where they were testing some. They would fire small objects directly at the material(which is multilayered) at somewhere around 10x the speed of a bullet and the objects were stopped by the second layer or so with no breach. So there's definitely hope that we can squash this problem in the next few years.

Geoffrey Kelly

I have a better idea. Consider a design modeled after the "Death Star". I know the name is not of the grandest, but the conceptual design is far more practical. It could have self sutaining food production, recreational parks, better space docking and science capability, radio telescope, aray of optical or near optical scope, particle acc., etc. Also, the geometry is more conduscive to the type of field technology/generation that may prvide FTL. The possibilities are limitless.


Obviously an Enterprise built in 20 years would not come close to the fictional one of StarTrek. Only in appearance. But that in it self would be beyond cool! If nothing else it would be a great orbiting platform to conduct experiments. Can you imagine an alien viewing it for the first time. What the hell is that? If building an Enterprise was done with private funds, I say yes. But involve the US government and you got a mess. Just like the mess we find ourselves in today. We can't afford a shuttle craft let alone a full size Enterprise.

arizona dave

Somebody should give Ironman, aka Elon Musk, a billion bucks and get him to build it.

Ross Nicholson

Nerds. Maybe the force be with you. You don't solve problems today by jibber-jabber like this. No one here has even a clue of what it takes to build something like this. Anyone of you know how to assemble a nuclear reactor? How about two of them In space? Know how much it will cost? Didn't think so. Continue the intelligent conversation....

This is like getting excited over growing wings and being able to fly. Exciting idea. Not very realistic.


While this may be jibber-jabber, every step mankind has made throughout history has taken us from a cave to ironically this subject, to step foot on the moon and put serious focus on going beyond that. I don't believe in the impossible (even this concept is doable). We are a very creative species, we by nature go out of our way to find new solutions and innovate endlessly, creating new technologies. I wish there more people like Dan that would step forward so the outcome would be progress in space exploration which is dying in the US. I don't downplay Dans idea at all, you have to start somewhere, and having the idea in the first place is the first step forward. While some may criticize some of the technologies Dan suggested, realistically all these technologies will be constantly innovated by the brightest minds in the industry if construction started. It would be one of the most exciting topics to talk about and be a part of. The major roadblock even Dan might also agree with is getting materials into orbit. I believe this should be the first focus all the creative minds needs to solve before real progress in the space industry can occur. Inefficient rockets is the only technology we have. So we need to innovate a better solution. Elevators into space is an interesting "concept" of an idea but nano technology is in its infantcy and not possible to build using current technology which we must apply realistically to move forward. Possible solution: I believe electromagnetic cargo trains could be constructed by tunnel boring machines (TBM's) in a crescent/half circular tube and accelerated fast enough to break free of the earth's gravity. - It's just an idea I thought of, but is also monumental in its cost of construction which is always at the heart of every endeavor. Maybe the collection of minerals while boring the tunnel could offset some of the costs as well as super fast transportation of people or goods anywhere between both ends will be another money generating industry that might offset transportation by train & long Haul trucking once the project is completed. Artificial gravity needs to be another major focus for innovation. We must have gravity for the health of our bodies, otherwise it will be a controversial issue at somepoint and create funding issues. While centrifugal force is the only real method we currently have, which we'll have to use until another technology is developed. I understand the frequency of gravity is 7.29 Hz, somebody might be able to figure out how to make a gravity plate, thus also anti-gravity plating that could revolutionalize efficiencies of transportation costs here on get them motivated financially if someone wants to ponder the possibilities. Just my thoughts.


Article date is May 14. Article content is April 1.

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