The Dauntless-class cruisers were not intended to lead the path to war; indeed, their very purpose was to explore the vast space around Earth and other nearby worlds. Equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and sodium hydride fusion power systems, these ships could reach the then-unheard of velocity of Warp 3.8 (although Warp 2.5 was standard cruising speed). More importantly, though, the nine vessels in the Dauntless-class were able to operate without support for a period of twelve to fifteen months, a far better endurance than the more famous Daedalus-class ships that would follow. Following the Romulan War of 2156 - 2160, the Dauntless-class ships spearheaded exploration of the Alpha Quadrant. Of the nine constructed, none are known to remain intact; five were destroyed in the line of duty, three were decommissioned and one vanished altogether.
Compared to modern starships, these vessels were indeed strange; squat, bulky and extremely cramped with regard to living spaces, over half of the mass of these ships was devoted to drive systems and fuel. The decks were arranged along the horizontal axis, as was standard procedure at the time (meaning that the bow of the ship was 'up'). The Dauntless-class ships were also one of the first designs to use large modular sections, making repair and replacement of components relatively easy. For the duration of the Romulan War, all Dauntless-class ships were equipped with prototype heavy particle-beam cannons instead of the planned long-range sensor package. This weapon - known as the Dragon - proved to be vital to the survival of these ships, as their armor and other weapons proved to be barely more than acceptable.
The power system of the Dauntless-class ships was highly unusual: instead of standard deuterium fusion (a process in which molecules of deuterium - also known as heavy water - are fused together at incredible pressure and temperatire, which results in an even greater release of energy that is used to power the ship), these ships were equipped with prototype sodium hydride (NaH) reactors. Sodium hydride was a more effective fuel because it could be stored in dry form as a fine powder, without the cryogenic storage problems which accompanied deuterium slush; because it had a higher energy potential per unit of volume than deuterium, meaning that more fuel could be stored in less space; and because it could propel the ship at higher velocities than ordinary fusion systems. Unfortunately this system had several obstacles as well, the greatest of which was the fact that operating temperatures and pressures were far greater than standard fusion systems. Following the successful use of matter / antimatter reactors in the Krechet-class cruisers, sodium hydride was largely abandoned as a form of power by 2170.
(machinery details omitted for clarity)
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This page was created on September 1, 2000.
Last modified on February 10, 2005.