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Shuttlecraft are fictional Star Trek vehicles built for short trips in Space, such as between a planetary surface and orbit. Also referred to as Shuttles, their introduction preceded the development of the Space Shuttle.

Prior to Star Trek science fiction productions from Forbidden Planet to Rocky Jones, Space Ranger assumed that a long-range Starship would land on planets. Gene Roddenberry's original premise stated that the Starship Enterprise rarely lands. Given the special effects complexity of landing a giant starship each week, "rarely" was quickly changed to "never".[1] Dated March 1964, the premise mentions a "small shuttle rocket".[2] The shuttle rocket was too expensive to build for the first episodes. For most of the series the Transporter served to teleport characters on and off the ship.

In the first year of Star Trek: The Original Series the need quickly developed for Shuttlecraft. Used to carry personnel, cargo and reconnaissance payloads, Shuttles filled the same need as boats on a Navy ship. They were also used by Starbases. For television writers, they served the dramatic function of putting characters in a small ship that could get lost. Though Shuttlecraft were initially expensive to build, they were eventually used in every Star Trek series.

The Original Series

Art Director Matt Jeffries originally envisioned a sleek, streamlined Shuttle based upon his background as a pilot. The curved shape proved too expensive to build for the first episodes.[3] AMT offered to build a full-sized Shuttlecraft at no cost in exchange for rights to market a model kit. The final design was by Gene Winfield,[4] is 24 feet (7.2 m) long and weighs one ton, has a plywood hull, and was built in two months by a team of 12 people. A separate set was used for interior scenes as the model was too small for filming.[5] This boxlike, utilitarian shape became the prototype of Shuttles throughout Star Trek. The Shuttlecraft, named for Galileo Galilei, was first featured in "The Galileo Seven". Its registration number is NCC-1701/7 and carries a crew of seven. When Galileo and her crew go missing in the episode a second Shuttlecraft called Columbus is launched.

Once the Shuttlecraft had been established, footage of them appeared in episodes including "The Menagerie", "The Doomsday Machine", "Journey to Babel", "Metamorphosis", "The Immunity Syndrome" and "The Way to Eden". In the latter episode, the full-size mockup sported the name Galileo II, acknowledging that the original Shuttlecraft was lost during "The Galileo Seven". During "The Omega Glory", the USS Exeter, a ship identical to Enterprise, is said to carry four Shuttlecraft.

After possession by several owners, the original 1966 mockup was sold at auction for $70,150 in summer 2012. After renovation in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, the purchaser donated the mockup to Johnson Space Center.[5] Shuttlecraft Galileo was formally unveiled at Space Center Houston on July 31, 2013.

The Animated Series

Freed from the constraints of what could be physically built, Star Trek: The Animated Series introduced audiences to a variety of spacecraft. A larger Shuttlecraft, sporting a long nose similar to Star Wars' X-wing fighter, appeared in "The Slaver Weapon". The episode "Mudd's Passion" featured a different shuttlecraft design. "The Ambergris Element" featured an Aquashuttle, capable of landing on a water-covered planet and submerging. The ambitious scope of this Filmation animated series was a foretaste of what would someday be possible with computer graphics.


With its large budget, Star Trek: The Motion Picture showed a variety of Shuttle-type vehicles operating in the vicinity of Earth. Though the Transporter is nearly always available, Shuttles provided a dramatic way for characters to enter. A passenger Shuttle carrying Admiral James T. Kirk is shown landing in San Francisco. Kirk travels from an Earth-orbiting Space station to Enterprise in a barrel-shaped Travel Pod. Spock docks with Enterprise in a Shuttle named for the Vulcan philosopher Surak, which carries Warp drive nacelles on a detachable sled. Matte paintings of cargo deck show that the refurbished Enterprise carries Shuttles similar to Surak but without the warp drive sled, indicating that this is a standard Shuttle design.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the next film in the series was made with a much lower budget. Footage of Kirk's arrival in a Travel Pod was recycled from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Shuttles were seen as background elements in the Spacedock. At the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, passenger Shuttles appear both in Spacedock and to rescue the crew from San Francisco Bay. At the movie's end, a Travel Pod is seen again carrying Kirk to Enterprise.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier featured many scenes of an updated Shuttlecraft, also sporting the name Galileo. The design was similar in size and shape to the Original Series Shuttle, with updated engine nacelles and a large rear hatch. The miniature Shuttle and Landing Bay were built by Greg Jein[6] The Shuttle was also built as a full-sized prop berthed in a full-scale Hangar Deck set.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country contained a scene of a Spacedock Ferry.[7] The miniature was later modified to appear as the Jenolen in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Relics".

Among movies featuring the Next Generation cast, Star Trek Generations shows several Shuttlecraft used to evacuate a grounded Enterprise. Star Trek: Insurrection featured both a new design Shuttlecraft and a Captain's Yacht. Star Trek: Nemesis introduced Argo, a Shuttle designed to carry a land vehicle in a rear compartment.[8]

Star Trek: The Next Generation

USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) of Star Trek: The Next Generation was designed with a highly curved and sculpted shape. Designer Andrew Probert, like Matt Jeffries before him, designed a Shuttle with a streamlined shape. Miniature footage of this design was seen in episodes such as "Coming of Age", "The Child" and "Unnatural Selection". Referred to as a Type 7 Shuttle, it had a projected length of 8.5 m. As before, the series lacked the resources to build the complex shape of this Shuttle as a full-scale prop.

The script for "Time Squared" called for a full-scale Shuttle that the crew could walk around and examine. That episode introduced the Type 15 Shuttlepod, a tiny craft only 3.6 meters long. Modified versions of the Shuttlepod appeared in subsequent episodes like "The Most Toys".

During the 1991-92 season the full-scale Shuttlecraft mockup built for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier became available. It was modified with larger windows and nacelles to reflect the Next Generation's technology. This Type 6 Shuttle first appeared in "Darmok" and was seen in subsequent episodes like "Relics". The Type 6 Shuttle was 6.0 meters long. Follow-on series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager took place in the same 24th century time frame, sharing many costumes and props.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Since the Space Station of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rarely moved, some sort of auxiliary craft was necessary. The first episode introduced the Runabouts. Equipped with Warp drive and Transporter for long missions, the Runabout was described as a small starship. With its bicycle shape, chisel nose and ski-like nacelles the Runabout looked like a descendant of previous Shuttles. The design was initially inspired by the Spacedock Ferry in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.[9] A Runabout also appeared in the Next Generation episode "Timescape".

In "The Search", the first episode of the third season, USS Defiant was introduced. Defiant took over some of the defense and exploration roles previously filled by Runabouts. The new starship needed her own Shuttles, and a small Shuttlepod was seen in the episode. Another Shuttlepod design was seen aboard Defiant in later episodes.

Star Trek: Voyager

Though the starship USS Voyager was capable of landing on planets, Shuttlecraft were frequently needed. Possibly because of budgets, Star Trek: Voyager began her journey using the Type 6 Shuttle first seen in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and adapted for Star Trek: The Next Generation. During the show's seven seasons, computer graphics became available, which decreased the expense of bringing spaceship designs to the screen. A sleek Class 2 Shuttle was first seen in "Threshold".

During Voyager's journey to Earth an amazingly large number of Shuttles were lost, eventually requiring a new spacecraft. The Delta Flyer was introduced in the episode "Extreme Risk". Equipped with Warp drive and technology gained from the Borg, the Delta Flyer was far more capable than the Shuttles it replaced. Like the Aquashuttle in the Animated Series, Delta Flyer could submerge and travel in water.

Star Trek: Enterprise

During the earlier time period of Star Trek: Enterprise, the Transporter is a relatively new innovation. The first episode introduced a winged Shuttlepod, two of which were carried aboard ship. Though the Shuttlepods were represented in Space via computer graphics, a full-scale mockup was built for scenes with actors. As the crew of Enterprise NX-01 were still getting accustomed to the Transporter, Shuttlepods were used throughout all four seasons.

Enterprise also featured inspection pods in a small number of episodes. These pods lacked the ability to land but had better visibility than any othe craft. This made them well suited to examining the exterior of starships.

Star Trek (2009)

With a movie-sized budget and the advantages of computer graphics, the 2009 Star Trek film showed off an endless variety of spacecraft. The USS Kelvin launches a Shuttle carrying her Captain to a fateful meeting aboard the Narada. A Medical Shuttle carries Kirk's mother to safety, while more Shuttles are seen evacuating the crew. Externally, the Kelvin Shuttlecraft seemed to be of the same design, but with different internal equipment.

A Military Shuttle transports Kirk and McCoy to Starfleet Academy. A scene in a Starfleet hangar features a number of Shuttles of the same design. Though the Transporter is obviously available, this movie continues the tradition of Kirk arriving aboard Enterprise in a Shuttle. Later in the film, another Military Shuttle carries Captain Christopher Pike and a three-man assault team. Yet another Shuttle of this design is used by Scott on Delta Vega. Like the Kelvin Shuttles, the Military Shuttles are of similar design but different internal arrangements.

Real space shuttles

In part because of Star Trek, the term shuttle has permanently entered Earth's vocabulary as a vehicle for traveling between a planetary surface and space. Wernher Von Braun in the 1950s conceived of a reusable winged spacecraft as a Ferry Rocket. Plans for such vehicles were referred to as "DC-3" by spacecraft designer Maxime Faget and Integrated Launch and Reentry Vehicle (ILRV) by NASA. During the late 1960s, while Star Trek: The Original Series was being broadcast, these concepts became known as Space Shuttle. In a speech given to the British Interplanetary Society in August 1968 George Mueller, head of the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight, mentioned the need for a Space Shuttle. This was the earliest known official use of the term.

Aerospace Engineer Maxwell Hunter and others had been using the term shuttlecraft for several years, corresponding to the broadcast dates of Star Trek. By 1969, the term Space Shuttle had replaced ILRV.[10] In April 1969, a Space Shuttle Task Group was formed within NASA.[11] Star Trek's penultimate episode, the last in a regular time slot, had aired on March 14, 1969. On January 5, 1972, President Richard Nixon formally announced development of the Space Shuttle, making the name permanent.

In February 1977, the OV-101 test vehicle began glide tests. OV-101 was christened Space Shuttle Enterprise after a concerted letter-writing campaign by Star Trek fans. Like the Shuttlecraft of Star Trek: The Original Series, the Space Shuttle orbiters were used interchangeably to carry crew, cargo or exploration payloads. In orbital missions from 1981 to 2011, the Space Shuttle became symbolic of humanity's reach into Space.


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