VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

I’ve been a lifelong fan of Star Trek and was motivated, like many other students at the time, by the original TV series (as well the amazing space programs at NASA) to pursue a career in engineering. I even wrote a book, Starship Simulation.

So, when I heard about the restoration project by Adam & Leslie Schneider, Alec Peters, and Gene Winfield in which the original Galileo Shuttlecraft was located (in a garbage dump) and fully, painstakingly, and lovingly restored to its former glory, ending up as a permanent display at the Houston Space Center, I was again motivated. This time I wanted to build my very own Galileo Shuttle, but not the little plastic one that was originally offered back in the sixties. I wanted to assemble a large-scale, hand-built model.

My original thoughts were to build a full-size Galileo that was accurate in every detail inside and out. Then, I wanted to tour the country with it as a traveling educational exhibit, keeping the love of Star Trek alive; Trekkies, old and new, would get to see it up close and personal. My Galileo would, perhaps, inspire yet another generation of students to pursue careers in science and engineering. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work out when CBS Productions, which owns the Star Trek franchise, informed me that they wouldn’t allow it to happen.

I did build my large-scale version, which was intended as a proof-of-concept model for the full-size version, including the ability to split into three sections which, at full-scale, would have allowed it to be transported in shipping containers from location to location around the U.S. As it turned out, the split-ability still comes in handy when I move it out of and back into my apartment. I recently had to do this in order to exhibit it at the 2015 Honolulu Mini Maker Faire.

Intro to Engineering Drawings

The following represent the set of engineering drawings that I created. These provided the overall design of the shuttle as well as being the basis for numerous specific files for driving the laser cutter and CNC router to produce the various parts of the shuttle. I think that including a few of these diagrams gives some idea of the complexity of the build.

I started my project by searching the web for photos and diagrams that I could use as the basis for my own CAD and other engineering drawings. Fortunately there are many people who have taken the time to draw up excellent engineering drawings and publish them on the web. I used many of those drawings, as well as photos of the “real” shuttle, to prepare files, mostly using Alibre CAD software, that were then used to drive a laser cutter and CNC router at our local makerspace. Almost the entire shuttle is made from ⅛” MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) cut with the laser, the router, or by hand on a small table-top jigsaw.

The warp engines are made from 3” mailing tubes from UPS with lots of internal baffles to accommodate the wing struts plus lower, hidden support struts. The forward end of each warp engine came from a clear plastic Christmas tree ornament, which I frosted white on the inside. The upper and lower curved sections are PVC pipe.

The front windows can be configured with clear plexiglass so that you can see inside, or with white covers, as would be used when the shuttle is traveling at warp speed.

The rear compartment of the shuttle is actually never seen in any of the TV episodes so I was basically free to put whatever I liked back there. I decided to put a set of storage units in the starboard side and a transporter on the port side.

Then, there’s the lighting. I made extensive use of RGB LEDs; they are special LEDs which, under computer control (an Arduino Uno in this case), can be made to show just about any color possible. There’s lighting in the forward ends of the warp engines, doing a nice chasing lights round and round effect, just like the real shuttle. I also added lighting for the rear impulse engines, the interior overhead lights, both rear and main cabins, the side wall panel lights, and the forward main control station. Each section has numerous lights and each is controllable individually and in concert with one another. The Transporter goes through a sequence that includes the basic twirling circle of lights above and below where the person stands. It’s all programmed using the Arduino programming language, which is very similar to C++.

A fellow Maker, Eric Quakenbush, helped out with several details including the main rear landing gear and some “props,” such as a to-scale phaser pistol and tri-corder. He’s still working on making the full set of interior seats using 3D printing, molding, and resin casting.

The final touch was to create all the labels and logos on the outside. That was done with Alibre and other software to drive a vinyl cutter at the Oahu Makerspace.

While it looks pretty complete, there are still a few details to finish and I’m hoping to add sounds as well. Plus, I’m talking with a local Star Trek cosplay group to make some videos in which we combine the model with real live action actors.

A comprehensive set of photos showing the progress of the build can be found here.

star ship simulation

In 1978, I wrote and published, through Dilithium Press, my book, Star Ship Simulation, describing how the bridge of the Enterprise could be simulated using small interconnected computers. This was long before the advent of personal computers or even before hobby computers. In the intervening years I’ve heard from a number of people and hobby groups who have used my book as the basis for actually building both hardware and software simulations of the Enterprise.


Learn more about the Honolulu Mini Maker Faire here!

honolulu mini maker faire