Chaffee – Defiant’s Perky Shuttle

Chaffee capitalized on Matt Jefferies idea to put Enterprise style nacelles on the Galileo. There was no doubt who the shuttle belonged to. The Defiant was a very different Federation starship, with very unusual nacelles. We decided to go with maestro Jefferies, and visually tie the Chaffee to the Defiant.

Chaffee was one of those things that came out of left field. I was in the art department lighting matches with my feet, when Gary Hutzel appeared in a flash of light and smoke. Shuttle! Yes? New! Yes? Today! Oh god! Hurry! Go like the wind!

And that’s pretty much how it always happens, except that I had just completed the diagrams of the Defiant for the DS9 Tech Manual. Gary! I blurted like a little kid who didn’t wanna. Where? Where is it supposed to launch from! It’s impossible! There is no place! And to prove it I unfurled the newly minted diagrams on top of the lightbox. See? I’ve worked out every nook! There is absolutely no place… no place… um… hey… it could go right here! I point to the circular ring on the bottom of the ship. Right here! Some modest adjusting and… it… could… work! There was another flash of light and a roiling of thunder and he was gone! His disembodied voice reverberated over me… Today…today… today…

(Above) Orthos of the CG model built by Brandon.

(Below) The diagrams that I provided to Gary.

(Below) A diagram I recently provided to the Trek BBS that puts the size of the Chaffee into terms that we can all relate to, especially if you own a BMW. I drive a ten year old Altima, but my other car is a battlestar.

(Below) Chaffee and mothership Defiant. From The Ships Of The Line.

What I really remember is us getting scolded by someone in the office for naming the shuttle Chaffee. Who do you think you are naming a shuttlecraft after your girlfriend! Now it was time for me to be impressed. Rick Berman jumped in and set the record straight. Don’t be rediculous!  Chaffee is one of the Apollo 1 astronauts that died on the pad. Approved!

There has been a lot of controversy over the size of the Defiant and the Chaffee based on this series of frames of frames from the DS9 episode “The Sound Of Her Voice”. Scales were played loose and fast in this shot. In an upcoming article I promise to do a “Mythbusters” edition of the Drex Files that will deal with this. I imagine someone on high thought the Defiant needed to look bigger in the shot, so they shank Chaffee and in turn gernerated creating years of fan debate.

Screencaps provided by Jörg.

55 Responses to “Chaffee – Defiant’s Perky Shuttle”

  1. 1 Dwayne Day
    March 26, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Well… cool…

  2. March 26, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Having never seen DS9, I haven’t seen this shuttlecraft before, but it’s definitely one of the better shuttlecraft designs I’ve seen on Trek. Nice and sleek.

  3. 4 Henry Ortega
    March 26, 2011 at 8:50 am

    The following program is brought to you in living color on Drex TV!!!!

  4. March 26, 2011 at 8:51 am

    I freaking love it!


  5. 7 the bluesman
    March 26, 2011 at 9:04 am


    I think the Chafee clearly keeps the tribute to Matt Jefferiesin tact while also bring it into the DS9 era. Considering the mission of the Defiant, you’d eed a beefier shuttle to go with it.

  6. 8 RichT
    March 26, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Star Trek shuttles, for me, have always fallen into two main groups – the majority are ungainly and inexplicably ugly boxes, the minority are cool and sleek and look like they mean business. This is very much in the latter category. One of my favourite auxiliary vehicle designs.

    • 9 Boris
      March 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

      Bear in mind that the “Chaffee” didn’t have an exterior set. If one had been planned, I don’t think the design could’ve been made this curvy. These days, it probably would’ve been done with a virtual set.

      • 10 the bluesman
        March 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm

        I agree, but Iriwn Allen managed to build half a Spindrift and that thing is all curves, but maybe he had a bigger budget too.

  7. 11 Boris
    March 26, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Thanks for the orthos!

    The size has been uncertain but without a lot of discussion over the years, presumably because the shuttle appeared in only one episode. It wasn’t clearly seen next to humans, so there are people arguing it’s basically a shuttlepod (because the dialogue made reference to one), and others saying it should be quite a large shuttle, in accordance with figures from the DS9TM text (32 feet or more). There are also numbers in-between.

    Whoever scaled the above model at 26 feet likely did so based on your concepts, because the number is roughly in agreement with the “Defiant” deck plans. Still, Brandon MacDougall told me his model is 42 feet long (and 85% of that for the shot where it leaves the bay). My guess is the size was revised upwards in order to show the “Chaffee” next to a 560-foot CG “Defiant” (standard VFX scale), since your MSD “Defiant” is only about 350-400 feet long, and the shuttlebay interior was designed with the MSD in mind.

    For consistency with that one episode, a finalized size should match the existing shots (to the extent it can be inferred), and also the vague interior set seen on the show. However, it would probably be closer to 26 feet than to 42, because the “Defiant” should be scaled down: the 560-foot size wasn’t nearly as prominent on the show as the MSD at 350-400 feet. (Un)fortuntely the shuttle wasn’t seen too often, so hopefully there won’t be many inconsistencies.

  8. March 26, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Here we go again with the “how big is the Defiant?” argument. Sheesh, some people really hang onto things. ;)

    Great stuff, Doug. This is one of those models that got nowhere near enough screen time for my taste. I like it a lot better than the shuttlepod from “The Search.” It’s sleek and fast looking, just like the Defiant (even though aerodynamics don’t matter in space, this thing does fly through atmospheres.) I like that you put a BMW in there for scale. That’s appropriate, since this shuttle looks like a sports car.

    • 13 Boris
      March 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm

      “Sheesh, some people really hang onto things.”

      As opposed to saying, “Make it X meters and call it a day?” Some things take years or decades to resolve, but I’ve definitely seen progress. That’s what research is all about, as opposed to fan fiction.

  9. 15 Marcase
    March 26, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Awesome orthos, liked this one better than the Type 18.

    Serious question – why didn’t you guys turn the flat stern of the Defiant into a hangar(door)? That would’ve made a lot of sense – “Starfleet technical” and art department practical – but hey, it was a great ship nonetheless.

    Thanks again!

  10. 16 Matt Boardman
    March 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    She’s a sweet little thing for sure! Love the Defiant-esque nacelles and the homage to the refit Connie in the impulse engines. Love the placement of the Defiant shuttlebay. Did it have any influence on the drop out shuttlebays for the NX-01?

    • 17 Dave Kwiatkowski
      March 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      I thought exactly the same thing in regards to the Enterprise type impulse engine! I love how well it seems to fit in with the design of the shuttle.

  11. 18 JNG
    March 26, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I don’t think there’s much value in scaling the shuttle down to match a Defiant size that in itself has lots of problems. Arbitrary CGI rescaling wrecks that kind of stuff, but with a shuttle we can focus on its accommodation of “50th-percentile humanoids.” A larger shuttle size seems more reasonable because it at least allows people to stand up inside; As Defiant already had launch and retrieval capability for small shuttlepods, the later construction of a new, larger shuttlebay facility makes a lot more sense if it’s to accommodate relatively large auxiliary craft.

    • 19 Boris
      March 27, 2011 at 1:58 am

      We cannot ignore the MSD without explaining why the crew would’ve kept such a detailed yet supposedly inaccurate graphic all those years. The MSD was frequently shown in the background, with a number of closeups which allowed us to count the decks. It’s a matter of remaining consistent with as much of the canon as possible, preferably all of it. Therefore, the remaining evidence must be rationalized with the MSD in mind, but it also helps that a number of VFX shots portrayed the Defiant as a small ship.

      Such an approach means that the shuttlebay and the Chaffee would be laid out pretty much as depicted in Doug Drexler’s deck plans, though it is possible that small adjustments may be required in order to make them fit the VFX shots and the vague interior set (TNG Type-6 shuttle? TNG/DS9 shuttlepod? Something else?)

      • 20 JNG
        March 27, 2011 at 5:57 am

        There was more than one MSD shown for Defiant and more than one deck chart in the turbolift, and multiple references to Deck 5 (one also in the turbolift) create a problem with the one that was shown most often. Not that we got any spectacular close-ups of it, like we did on TNG. All the MSDs are probably inaccurate to some degree, given the need to account for certain things like Jefferies tubes and so on, so it seems really odd to have to stuff dialogue references and a good number of VFX shots (including one with reference to the runabout, one of the only consistently scaled vehicles) in favor of an MSD.

        My thinking was always that the bigger Defiant at least has plenty of room for everything shown and then some space to let the imagination stuff in everything else (though I’m sure the bowling alley was regrettably left out of Starfleet’s stab at a purpose-built combat vessel).

        I guess the DS9 tech manual was sending us all a message when it tried to have its cake and eat it too on the Defiant size. I believe it gives a size of around 31-32 feet for the Chaffee-type shuttle–also sort of a compromise candidate.

      • 21 Boris
        March 27, 2011 at 6:41 am

        The revised MSD from the DS9TM was shown by Season 7, but it is irrelevant to the size because the new MSD merely fleshes out the original. The turbolift schematic may or may not show six decks (depending on whether the labeled version from the CD-ROM was ever seen), but even if it does and even if we are able to see “Deck 6″, this would be totally insignificant compared to the number of times we’ve seen the MSD. We would have to propose that the ship’s decks aren’t identical to its levels, in order to give the Defiant four levels and six decks.

        As for the VFX shots, even if the runabout comparison does show 171m, why should we give precedence to one VFX shot over all the others? There is nothing wrong with the Excelsior-, Keldon-, or Sovereign-class references, since we know those ship sizes well enough to see that the Defiant was supposed to be quite small. Rick Sternbach doesn’t recall how he came up with the Chaffee numbers for the DS9TM: given the remaining evidence I posted above, it is likely he was measuring the deck plans with a 171m length in mind.

        In order to get a sense of what is important, it is really important to watch the show in sequence. There are three references to Deck 5, but many more views of the MSD, which remained in the background for a total of four complete seasons. I don’t want to discard any evidence, but it has to be weighted correctly in order devise a scenario which best fits what we’ve seen onscreen.

      • 22 knives
        March 31, 2011 at 9:07 am

        I think just because we’ve seen the MSD more times then the other evidence should not give it more weight. By circumstance the prop was just simply in a place where it was seen a lot, rather then the evidence in the turbolift etc. In a situation where there’s so much contradictory evidence, what makes most sense should be what we roll with. Which in the case of the Defiant is a ship with more than 4 decks.

  12. 23 Chris McKinney
    March 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    I’ve always loved this shuttle. I love the very Refit Connie impulse engines she has.

  13. 24 KG-1
    March 26, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Given the how shuttles were named in the past, I’m surprised that they allowed anyone in the position of any kind of authority, who was so ignorant about who Roger Chaffee was?

  14. March 27, 2011 at 1:37 am

    Great little shuttle and a fantastic name. Nice to see the fallen being honoured in this way.

  15. 26 Scott D
    March 27, 2011 at 2:58 am

    Spunky little thing. Love how similar it is to NX-Enterprise drop shuttles.

  16. 27 R.J.Minnes
    March 27, 2011 at 5:59 am

    Feisty li’ll bugger, would have been nice to have seen more of here…Any chance for a ventral view?

  17. 28 Johnny D
    March 27, 2011 at 6:21 am

    I like that the model is a little more weathered than the normal Starfleet shuttle, suggesting that cosmetic maintenance got skimped during the tumult of the Dominion War.

    • 29 Eric N.
      March 27, 2011 at 7:32 pm

      That reminds me of being at an airshow, and hearing second-hand the aghast comments of Air Force personnel after having seen a Navy C-2(?) carrier cargo plane make an appearance. She was dusty, oily, and working her butt off, I’m sure. It can all depend on the amount of time available for TLC…

  18. 30 MaxDefiant
    March 27, 2011 at 6:25 am

    So when coming up with the impulse engines did you guys just start dragging and dropping different impulse engines from other CG models to save time? Not to say it looks slapped on, but I can imagine how fast you have to turn these around in so it only makes sense to borrow from where you can. Thanks again for another great Defiant post, you know I love them!

  19. 31 R.J.Minnes
    March 27, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Anyone noticed that the impulse engines are a subtle hommage to the refit-Constitution…? Nice touch !

  20. 32 Buckaroohawk
    March 27, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Sorry I missed the festivities yesterday. A last-minute assignment came up and I didn’t have time to get online and join the party.

    The Chaffee is my second favorite shuttle design, right behind the original TNG shuttlecraft. Sorry TOS fans, but the Galileo comes in a close third in my book. The Chaffee looks fast and tough, just like her mothership, and I’ve always liked how its details so closely match those on the Defiant. The first time I sw it I thought, “Man, I’d love to fly that baby!”

    RE: The Issue of Scale. I don’t want to dive too deeply into this subject, mainly because there’s no simple resolution to the problem. Everyone has their own opinions of what is (or should be) the correct scale of the various ships seen throughout Trek. The reality is there is very little consistency for the scale of any ship seen in any of the Trek movies or TV series. What it all boils down to are judgment calls made my the producers and VFX teams, and their top priority was what looked best, not what was technically correct. The shots of the Chaffee launching clearly show windows on the inside hull of the Defiant, indicating that the ship was more than four, five, or even six decks tall. The Defiant MSD we’re all familiar with, though, obviously contradicts this, as do lines spoken by the actors in various episodes. So which piece of evidence is “the right one”? The answer is “none of them.” I love the idea of trying to keep the scales of all these ships consistent, but it just isn’t possible. So much of this stuff was done on-the-fly, under massive time and budget constraints that the only realistic conclusion is just to set aside those inconsistencies and simply enjoy the VFX for their spectacular entertainment value.

    Hmmmm…so much for not diving “too deeply into this subject.” Heh! :-)

    • 33 Boris
      March 27, 2011 at 10:21 am

      That’s the easy answer, one that is acceptable only when you’re working under definite time constraints such as those of episodic television. When you’re analyzing evidence over the course of years or decades, there is enough time to interview everyone involved, figure out what they had in mind, where the design is inconsistent and how best to fix those inconsistencies in order to fit the canon.

      For example, we don’t know whether those lights are windows, and we don’t know where “Deck 5″ is located physically. The MSD is quite explicit, on the other hand, so we must rationalize those two pieces of evidence with the MSD in mind, not the other way around.

    • March 30, 2011 at 8:55 am

      Like buckaroohawk, I also regard the Chaffee and Probert’s TNG shuttle as my favorites of the franchise’s history. I imagine using the Star Trek V shuttle body here was a time-saving measure, but it nicely echoes the shape of the Defiant’s forward pod.

  21. March 27, 2011 at 9:57 am

    I never liked the Chaffee much because I saw no reason why shuttles should look like the babies of their mother ships. Still it is a design that I would have liked to see more often.

    As for the size, at 7.5m (as in the comparison with the BMW) I figure it still wouldn’t be quite as small relative to a 120m Defiant (as per the deck plans) as it looks in the episode. That would require a further reduction to about 6.5m. But perhaps it would at least fit through the hatch.

    • 36 Boris
      March 27, 2011 at 10:13 am

      The size comparison with the BMW is probably slightly off, since Doug mentioned 8 meters on TrekBBS, just before he sent that overlay to be posted on the board, and also 26 feet (7.9m) two years ago on this blog. The number comes from Doug’s copy of the LightWave model, while a size of 25 feet was also listed in the handwritten chart posted by Larry Nemecek, penciled in during a 1998 interview with Gary Hutzel.

      • March 27, 2011 at 10:30 am

        Well, I’d have no problem to scale the baby down to 7.5m. But I agree, there’s enough evidence for the 8m length.

        We seem to have three different scales of the shuttle:
        - 9.64m relative to the 170m Defiant as per the DS9TM
        - 6.5m relative to the 120m Defiant (perhaps a bit longer)
        - 7.9..8m without the Defiant reference (probably too small for the 120m ship, in line with the 170m version)

      • 38 Boris
        March 27, 2011 at 11:52 am

        The 9.64m figure is too short for the stated width and height in the DS9TM. It is difficult to say whether the 26-foot figure is related to a 560-foot Defiant, especially given Brandon MacDougall’s data I posted above.

        I would suggest fitting the onscreen shuttle interior into these CG orthos. The resulting size may have to be adjusted for the VFX shots, and of course, the shuttle and its bay should fit inside an MSD-scale Defiant, preferably as illustrated in the official deck plans.

    • 39 JNG
      March 29, 2011 at 11:32 pm

      I just tried watching the episode again to see what I could see about the shuttle interior, but those scenes are in close-up. I can’t get a read on how much room there is over their heads, or how far it is to the back, or anything :(

      In the launch sequence, those really do look like windows on Defiant, moreso than ever on the shuttle launch sequence. They don’t seem to be in a wonderful place for windows, but it’s perhaps an even worse place for them to be sensor palettes.

      I have nothing to go on except the logic that if the Defiant could already launch shuttlepods in “The Search,” the addition of a shuttle bay in the interim suggests that it would be to service a notably larger and more capable shuttle, as does the fact that they flew the Chaffee instead of one of the previously shown shuttlepods. (However, they do mention a “shuttlepod” in the episode while generating the plan, so I guess it is not certain that the DS9 Tech Manual is correct when it paints the Chaffee as a full-size personnel shuttlecraft instead of a shuttlepod. Oh well.)

      • 40 Boris
        March 30, 2011 at 11:40 am

        The lights do look like windows and it is likely they were intended to be windows when the model was built, but in the final analysis, canonically, we don’t know if that’s what they are, and we don’t know if they are sensors either or whether that would be a good place for sensors.

        A shuttlepod is mentioned in dialogue, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that one was used in the end. Perhaps they decided to take the Chaffee at the very last minute, or they merely mentioned “shuttlepod” out of habit.

        Given apparent inconsistencies, it becomes a matter of what we can actually prove.

      • 41 SS Robin Moor
        March 31, 2011 at 3:11 am

        no way they are sensors. tucked along an angled part of the ship itself? most of the look angle is blocked by the ship itself. maybe they could be transporter emitters but they do not look like those on other ships

  22. 42 Choo1701
    March 27, 2011 at 10:13 am

    “There was another flash of light and a roiling of thunder and he was gone! His disembodied voice reverberated over me… Today…today… today…”

    Did NO ONE in the Trek art department use DOORS!?! =p

  23. March 27, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Here’s to people who drive ten year old cars,


  24. March 28, 2011 at 8:50 am

    I would have killed for references like this about a year ago when I was modelling this, these images really make me want to start again from scratch and get a totally accurate model done :)

  25. March 31, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Great work. Personally I love the burn marks and weathering. Little details that make it look like it’s been through some shit instead of fresh off the assembly line.

  26. 47 DeanneM
    April 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Yea! Lots of good comments, but I just wanna say yea to one of my fave ship and to a great tie-in (in keeping with a great tradition) shuttle design. And awesome name; we remember all who gave their time, effort and lives in the space program.

  27. April 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Thing of SF beauty, no doubt!

  28. 49 Mick
    April 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    I scowered the web for untold days, weeks, years for references. It took me the better part of three years to create a physical model of this awesome shuttle, but I did it. I think I finished her in 2003 or so. The best info I could come up with for the dorsal was the wire mesh from the starship spotter book. I’m sure I have it close.
    Here is some of the work in Progress from those many years ago…


    Strangly now that I have it, I haven’t finished the model for years and years. Look for Type Ten Shuttle in the link below.


    Doug, I notice some new details on this new batch of CG pics. Just awesome work indeed, thanks for sharing with us. Keep em coming. Maybe I’ll get off the couch and back to the workbench and get to work on the Shuttlepod, another cool little rig…

  29. 50 Wen
    April 21, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    “What I really remember is us getting scolded by someone in the office for naming the shuttle Chaffee. Who do you think you are naming a shuttlecraft after your girlfriend! Now it was time for me to be impressed. Rick Berman jumped in and set the record straight. Don’t be rediculous! Chaffee is one of the Apollo 1 astronauts that died on the pad. Approved!”

    This is one of my favourite Star Trek stories.

    • April 22, 2011 at 7:04 am

      Berman knew his space exploration history, to be sure!

      • 52 Boris
        April 24, 2011 at 11:34 pm

        Bear in mind that Berman was 21 when it happened, and I imagine it was all over the news. However, maybe he really was interested in space exploration, I don’t know.

    • April 22, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      And in a supreme example of coincidence, I had suggested that one of the the little boxy shuttlepods in TNG be named El-Baz, after Farouk El-Baz, one of the Apollo lunar geology experts (one of my faves along with Hal Masursky). We had no idea that Rick Berman actually did some filming with El-Baz ages before Trek. The name was approved. The other part of the story goes that his kids were watching TNG the night the pod was featured and yelled out that the shuttle had the same name. Neat.

  30. 55 wancow
    December 3, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    This happens to be my favourite design of any Trek shuttle. I think it’s simply the best thought out, most attractive shuttle ever designed for Star Trek. My problem comes from the stated dimensions of the shuttle itself. I went to Foundation3D.com where there is a model of the shuttle and brought it into DAZ Studio 4.5, stuck a figure in it, and had to scale it to almost eleven meters long before the figure actually could fit inside comfortably. What could have happened was that the interior was improperly built, but I don’t think so. It seems to be very well recreated. So I’m a little dubious about the length being less than ten meters…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

March 2011
« Feb   Apr »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 401 other followers

%d bloggers like this: