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Shuttlecraft are fictional vehicles in the Star Trek science fiction franchise 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.

Before 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. Shuttlecraft designs were often shared across different media, for example the Danube-class runabout featured heavily in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was also featured in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Trek: The Original Series

See also: Galileo (Star Trek)

A Shuttlecraft prop from the original series, in a museum
A Shuttlecraft prop from the original series, in a museum

Art director Matt Jefferies 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 of the mockup, 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 mockup 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 starship of the same class as the Enterprise, is said to carry four shuttlecraft.

The Galileo shuttlecraft (a full-size theatrical prop) was not dismantled, but passed through the possession of several owners. The 1966 mockup was sold at auction for $70,150 in summer 2012. The new owner, Adam Schneider, a collector of Trek screen-used items, spent nine months restoring the Galileo in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. It was then donated to NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Museum in Houston.[5] The shuttlecraft Galileo was formally unveiled at Space Center Houston on July 31, 2013.[6] In 2014, the prop was used again in a film production and appeared in a scene of the fan-made Star Trek Continues episode "Fairest of Them All".[7]

Star Trek: 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.

Star Trek films

With its large budget, Star Trek: The Motion Picture showed a variety of shuttle-type vehicles operating near 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 the cargo deck show that the refurbished Enterprise carries shuttles similar to the Surak but without the warp drive sled, indicating that this is a standard shuttle design.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture depicts the "Travel Pod" shuttlecraft.[8]

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 and crew to the Enterprise.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier featured many scenes with updated shuttlecrafts, also sporting the name Galileo as well as Copernicus. 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.[9] 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".[10] 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 crashed 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.[11]

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 Jefferies 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.

The Type-15 Shuttlepod was seen in "Time Squared".[8] A set for the runabout shuttle's aft living quarters was built for "Timescape", an episode in the sixth season of The Next Generation (running concurrently with DS9's first season).[12] The set was designed by Richard James, and was funded from The Next Generation's budget, in order to take pressure off DS9's finances.[13][12] Unlike the cockpit construction, design and fabrication of the aft set had to be completed in nine days.[12] This was the only appearance of the Danube class outside of DS9, and although the set was intended for use on DS9, it was never used again to depict a runabout's interior.[13][12]

A Ferengi shuttlecraft is featured in the Star Trek franchise since its introduction in "The Price".[14] It was also seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Little Green Men" as spacecraft of the Ferengi character Quark.[15] The studio model for VFX was auctioned by Christie's for over 8000 USD in 2006.[15]

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 boxlike 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.[16] A runabout also appeared in the Next Generation episode "Timescape".

In "The Search", the first episode of the third season, the starship 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 Type 18 shuttlepod was seen in the episode.[8] Another Type 10 shuttle design was seen aboard Defiant in later episodes. The new Defiant shuttlecraft was introduced towards the end of Season 6, in "The Sound of Her Voice" (June 10, 1998 / S6E25)

This episode "Change of Heart" includes a sequence that depicts a runabout shuttle traversing an asteroid field, then landing on a planet.[17] This was the first episode in which runabout sequences were done completely with computer-generated imagery: complex scenes where the ship weaved through the dense asteroid field were achieved without weeks of miniature effect work, and camera movements during the landing sequence allowed the runabout to be shown from multiple angles in the same scene, as there was no need to conceal a 'mounting point' for the miniature.[17] The CGI model for this for the Danube class shuttle (The Runabout) was developed by Digital Muse.[17]

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, a large number of shuttles were lost, eventually requiring a new spacecraft. The Delta Flyer was introduced in the episode "Extreme Risk".[18] Equipped with warp drive and technological enhancements gleaned from the Borg, the Delta Flyer was far more capable than the standard shuttles it replaced. Like the aquashuttle in The Animated Series, the Delta Flyer could submerge and travel in water.

The Delta Flyer would be an important shuttlecraft in many episodes, and operated from the USS Voyager.[18] The design of the fictional spacecraft by the production staff and how it was presented in special effects has been written about in books about the franchise.[19] The Delta Flyer was designed by illustrator Rich Sternbach, and exterior views were rendered by computer graphics by Foundation Imaging.[20] The design was developed by 1998 by writers, illustrator, and CGI artists for the show.[21]

One of Voyager's shuttles, the Aeroshuttle, was integrated with the hull in the saucer section and although it was never used in an episode, the production team did develop special effects test footage of it disembarking.[22] Voyager's Aeroshuttle was intended as a warp-capable vessel that could also fly in atmospheres; the footage was made by CGI team leaders Rob Bonchune and Adam Lebowitz, along with the VFX Producer Dan Curry. Two other craft, the Manta and Cochrane were also developed but the Manta was not used. As referred in the website below, The Cochrane was used in "Threshold" for the purpose of breaching the transwarp barrier, which is by analogy to hitting Mach One.

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 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 other craft. This made them well suited to examining the exterior of starships.

One episode of this series "Shuttlepod One" takes place mostly aboard a shuttlecraft; actor Dominic Keating, who plays Reed in this episode, said he thought it was one of the "finest hours" of the show in a 2015 interview with SyFy,[23] and it was also highly rated by The Guardian and The Hollywood Reporter.[24][25] The shuttlecraft plays into a plot element, as its air supply is running out, which creates an atmosphere survival tension as the characters try to find a solution.[24]

Real space shuttles

Star Trek personnel and NASA administrators attending the Space Shuttle Enterprise's rollout ceremony
Star Trek personnel and NASA administrators attending the Space Shuttle Enterprise's rollout ceremony

In part because of Star Trek, the term space shuttle has permanently entered Earth's vocabulary as a vehicle for traveling between a planetary surface and space.[citation needed] 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.[26] In April 1969, a Space Shuttle Task Group was formed within NASA.[27] 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.


  1. ^ Whitfield, Stephen; Roddenberry, Gene (1968). The Making of Star Trek. US$1.95. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 43. ISBN 0-345-24691-8. SBN 345-24691-8-195.
  2. ^ Van Treuren, Richard. "On Ship-to-Surface Transportation". Best of Trek. March 1980. p. 53-65.
  3. ^ Reeves-Stevens, Judith & Garfield (1995).L The Art of Star Trek p. 18 New York, Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-89804-3
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 December 2005. Retrieved 12 January 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b Vinciguerra, Thomas (2013-02-28). "The Fate of Star Trek's Galileo". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  6. ^ "'Star Trek' Superfans Restore Galileo Shuttlecraft to 1960s Sci-Fi Glory". June 29, 2013. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  7. ^ Fairest of Them All. Star Trek Continues. 2014. Event occurs at 40:17. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Okuda, Michael; Okuda, Denise; Mirek, Debbie (2011-05-17). The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4516-4688-7.
  9. ^ Mandell, Paul. "Star Trek V: Sharing the Pain". Cinefex. May 1990. p. 46-47
  10. ^ Martin, Kevin. "Letting Slip the Dogs of War". Cinefex. February 1992. p. 40-59
  11. ^ Norton, Bill. "Star Trek: Nemesis Through A Glass Darkly". Cinefex. April 2003. p. 88-111.
  12. ^ a b c d Nemeck, Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, p. 251
  13. ^ a b Okuda & Okuda, The Star Trek Encyclopedia, p. 423
  14. ^ Okuda, Michael; Okuda, Denise; Mirek, Debbie (2011-05-17). The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4516-4688-7.
  15. ^ a b "Christie's FERENGI SHUTTLE MODEL".((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ Reeves-Stevens, Judith & Garfield (1994). The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine p. 125. New York, Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-87430-6
  17. ^ a b c Kaplan, Visual Effects, pp. 57-8
  18. ^ a b Okuda, Michael; Okuda, Denise; Mirek, Debbie (2011-05-17). The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781451646887.
  19. ^ Robinson, Ben; Reily, Marcus (2019-01-02). U.S.S. Voyager and Beyond. Eaglemoss Publications Limited. ISBN 9781858755328.
  20. ^ Sternbach, Rick. "Designing the Delta Flyer OCTOBER 2000 ISSUE 18 STAR TREK: THE MAGAZINE".((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ Sternbach, Rick. "Designing the Delta Flyer OCTOBER 2000 ISSUE 18 STAR TREK: THE MAGAZINE".((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ "Aeroshuttle test footage, and more Voyager behind the scenes goodies".
  23. ^ Granshaw, Lisa (2015-05-13). "Scott Bakula and Dominic Keating look back on Star Trek: Enterprise's best episodes 10 years later". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  24. ^ a b O'Neill, Phelim (2013-05-09). "Six to watch: Star Trek episodes". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  25. ^ Couch, Aaron; McMillan, Graeme (2016-09-08). "'Star Trek': 100 Greatest Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles: Valence Media. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  26. ^ Jenkins, Dennis (2001). Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System p. 78. Cape Canaveral, Dennis Jenkins. ISBN 0-9633974-5-1
  27. ^ Gatland, Kenneth (1981). Space Technology p. 206. Salamander Books. ISBN 0-517-542587