How do shields work in Star Trek

Protective shield

The Protective shield is a force field, or in general an energy field, which mainly serves to protect a spaceship from radiation, attacks or solid bodies.

Appearances and technical variants Edit source]

Among the known peoples, the protective shields appear in several forms:

Shield bladder [edit | Edit source]

The most common shape is the so-called shield bubble, which spherically surrounds the entire spaceship. This can be recognized by the fact that acting forces such as weapon fire are blocked a few meters in front of the outer shell, whereby the shield bladder lights up briefly under the action of force. (TNG:Target earth, The move, part I., Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, Part II, Star Trek: First Contact)

The distance to the outer hull is about 15 to 20 meters and is large enough that a Maquis raider can operate in it. (TNG:The return of Ro Laren)

Close-fitting protective shield [edit | Edit source]

Another common form of appearance is the tight-fitting protective shield, which traces the contours of the outer shell and thus has almost exactly the same shape as the spaceship.

Some Starfleet spaceships, such as the USS in 2379 Enterprise-E, have this type of protective shield. (Star Trek: Nemesis)

This shield shape was used as early as the 23rd century. So uses the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A) 2293 when fighting a camouflaged Bird of Prey of the Klingons, a close-fitting shield that is barely visible under fire. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Land)

Deflector shield [edit | Edit source]

Most spaceships have a deflector shield, which, unlike the defense shield, is permanently active and is mainly intended to protect against radiation and small objects that the forward-facing main deflector does not intercept. Even the laser weapons, some of which are still used by several peoples, are completely ineffective against the modern protective shields of Starfleet; they don't even penetrate the deflector shields. (TNG:The impossible Captain Okona)

Other embodiments Edit source]

A special design is, for example, the metaphase shield, which offers special protection from the radiation of a star and enables a spaceship to enter its corona. (TNG:Suspicions, Attack of the Borg, Part II)

Another modern shield variant of the Federation is the Unimatrix shield, which is developed by Lieutenant CommanderTuvok2375 for the multispatial probe and later also in the Delta Flyer is used. (VOY:Extreme risks)

Properties [edit | Edit source]

Shield modulation [edit | Edit source]

Shield modulation, also known as shield harmonic, is a physical property of a Protective shield or a force field that describes the form and effect.

By changing the shield modulation, you can briefly repel the tractor beam from a Borg cube. (TNG:In the hands of the Borg)

If you learn the shield modulation from an enemy spaceship, which also includes the shield frequency, you can set your own weapons so that they penetrate the enemy shields.

You can also fool the sensors and specify a different spaceship by changing the shield harmonic. In 2371, Chief O'Brien reconfigured the USS shield harmonics Defiant (NX-74205) so that it appears like a Kobheerian freighter on long-range sensors. (DS9:The second skin)

Types of shield modulation Edit source]

The shield modulation includes the following physical properties:

Shield frequency [edit | Edit source]

The shield frequency is the natural frequency of the energy field of the protective shield.

The shield frequency of the USS Enterprise of the Galaxy class is at the moment of the attack by the Bird-of-Prey of the Duras sisters 257.4 megahertz and the shield strength is 625 millicochrane. (Star Trek: Generations Meet)

In 2372 the Kazon-Nistrim attacked the USS Voyager. The weapon frequency of the Kazon constantly adapts to the new one Shield modulations on, Chakotay therefore commands a continuous rotation of the shield frequency. (VOY: The Signal)

In 2377 the Doctor Id sent the USS shield frequency Voyagerso that he can be beamed onto Iden's spaceship. There Weiss wants to use the shield frequencies to Voyager to destroy, which Iden refuses to do. (VOY:Flesh and Blood, Part I., Flesh and Blood, Part II)

Shield polarity [edit | Edit source]

The direction of the energy field of the protective shield is called shield polarity.

The swarm's polaron weapons rotate the shield polarity of a protective shield so that a spaceship is clearly visible on the sensors and can therefore be tracked more easily. (VOY:The swarm)

The Borg have found that the electromagnetic interactions between the graviton ellipse and a spaceship can be minimized by reversing the shield polarity and shutting off all superfluous energy. (VOY:One small step)

Shield harmonic [edit | Edit source]

The shield harmonic is an effect that occurs when activated Protective shields occurs. Every shield system has a characteristic shield harmonic that can be easily detected even under poor scanning conditions.

In 2372 Tuvok used the limited-use sensors of his shuttle, which had crashed on a Drayan moon, to investigate some approaching spaceships. He recognizes from their shield harmonic that these are not Federation ships, but Drayan ships. (VOY:innocence)


Shield strength [edit | Edit source]

Other properties and modifications Edit source]

In 2367 LieutenantBarclay was able to divert all warp energy into the shield grid through the influence of an alien intelligence, which increases its performance by over 300%. This is made possible by networking the deflector, shield grille and the warp field generator. The catch, however, is that it completely disables the warp drive, which is why it can only be used to a limited extent. (TNG:The journey into the unknown)

Should the shield grid fail due to excessive load, the shield generators - at least on spaceships of the novaClass - recharge within 30 to 45 seconds. During this time, however, the ship is completely defenseless. (VOY:Equinox, Part I)

A protective shield can also be extended over several spaceships, but with this extension the shield loses overall efficiency. (TNG:The defector, The Pegasus Project) The Cardassians also have this kind of technology. (DS9:Defiant)

Shields can be briefly reinforced with a deflector pulse. (VOY:Equinox, Part I)

It is possible to improve a protective shield with the help of a polaron modulator. 2377 is used on board the USS Voyager this procedure to escape a spatial anomaly. (VOY:The emptiness)

Interactions with other technology Edit source]

A disadvantage (or advantage) is the fact that no standard transporter systems can beam through the activated protective shields. Exceptions are the modern subspace transporter, the inverter, the translocator and the Iconian portal.TNG:The Iconia probes, Terror on Rutia-Four, Bok's retribution; VOY:Translocation)

It should also be noted that your own phasers cannot fully work through your own shields, which is why the use of torpedoes is preferable with active shields. (TOS:War the computer)

A protective shield is able to deflect the energy fields of a tractor beam. (TNG:The battle of Maxia) On the other hand, a protective shield can also absorb and re-bundle the field energy of a tractor beam. When you got on board the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) Salvaging the USS Raman decides, Data suggests extending the tractor beam with the help of two shuttles. This is necessary because the tractor beam does not reach into the atmosphere due to the atmospheric disturbances from Marijne VII. To do this, their protective shields are to be modified so that they pass the tractor beam on and re-focus it. (TNG:The interface)

Weak points of the protective shields [edit | Edit source]

  • Tachyon impulses can quickly weaken or collapse protective shields. In order not to be defenseless, the shields then have to be remodulated, which results in a brief moment of shieldlessness. (Star Trek: The Uprising)

Use of the protective shields [edit | Edit source]

2267, the protective shields are activated automatically if there is a danger, for example, from an object on a collision course. (TOS:My name is nomad)

Background information Edit source]

  • According to the reference workThe technology of the USS Enterprise the shields are generated by special generators that supply the complex shield grid on the outer shell with the necessary energy. The shield grid is built up from individual units. Several shield grid units form a network that covers part of the ship. All together form a bubble around the spaceship. Thus there are front, side, rear, upper, and lower shields that can be individually weakened or destroyed while the others remain intact. The shield generators work exactly like the tractor beam system with a "graviton polarity source".

Like most force field devices, the deflector system creates a limited zone of highly focused spatial distortion. The deflector field itself is emitted and shaped by a series of conformal transmission grids on the hull of the spaceship, creating a field that closely follows the shape of the ship. This field is very resistant to impacts from a wide variety of materials, ranging from relativistic subatomic particles to more massive, low-velocity objects. When such a disturbance occurs, the field energy is concentrated on the point of impact and creates a very narrow spatial distortion there. To the observer on board the ship, it appears as if the intruding object is ricocheting off the shield. However, a zero dimensional observer on the intruding object would perceive his / her trajectory as unchanged while the ship would suddenly have changed position. This is in some ways analogous to the spatial distortion caused by a natural gravitational source ...

However, such a protective shield should actually make the spaceship completely invisible, as it would also deflect ordinary light.
In Star Trek: Enterprise the functioning of the internal force fields is described as overlapping electromagnetic fields. However, it is not said whether this function of the internal force fields also applies to the deflector system, especially the Enterprise At that time there was no shield system, while internal force fields are already known.