The quantum torpedo is the first Starfleet follow-on weapon to replace the standard photon torpedo first developed in the 2200s. During upgrade testing of the Mark-IX warhead, it was determined that the theoretical maximum explosive yield of 25 isotons had finally been reached for a matter-antimatter reaction. Existing and future threat force conflicts drove the development of a new defensive standoff weapon that could be deployed on specially equipped starships, starbases and planetary surface fortifications. Advances in rapid energy extraction from the space-time domain known as zero-point vacuum eventually led the Starfleet R&D facility on Groombridge 273-2A to test a prototype continuum-twist device with a calculated potential of 52.3 isotons.
As in the history of laser-induced fusion, zero-point energy generation began with a negative energy balance, requiring a greater input on high-temperature EPS plasma to initiate reaction than what was actually produced by the zero-point field device. The basic mechanism involved the formation of an eleven-dimensional space-time membrane. A cousin of the superstring, the membrane was twisted into a string with topology of Genus 1 and pinched off from the background vacuum, calling into existence a new particle. The process of creating large numbers of new subatomic particles liberated correspondingly large amounts of energy. Calculations quickly showed that a relatively small volume of ultraclean vacuum carried aboard a torpedo warhead could place a highly explosive energy release on a target. A similar, albeit larger, event created most of the mass of the universe in the big bang. The pinch does not, as some researchers initally believed, occur at the same interface between this universe and the big bang's remnant domain, though such a continuum pinch may lead to even greater energy releases.
The testing of the prototype zero-point warhead occurred on Groombridge 273-2A, an uninhabited gas giant moon, in 2355, following six years of theoretical research and experimental hardware development. Various types of EM emitters were successful at producing energy bursts, and one was choosen for a detonation test 285 kilometers beneath the surface. Security measures had already been heightened for the entire program when tensions spiked dramatically one hour before the test. One researcher produced a computer simulation that indicated a possible rapid and total annihilation of the moon at the moment of detonation. Unfortunatley, one calculation variable dealing with hypothetical runaway vacuum pinching had not been deleted, and another last-minute simulation predicted a detonation confined to a nine-hundred-meter diameter sphere. The test was successful, the Groombridge site was abandoned and restored to its original state, and Starfleet defensive weapon facilities continued with fabrication.
Torpedo Operations: The quantum torpedo consists of a pressure-molded shell of densified Tritanium and Duranium foam, trapezoidal in cross section and tapered at the forward end for atmospheric applications. A 7 millimeter layer of plasma-bonded terminium ceramic forms an ablative armour skin for the foam hull, over which is bonded a 0.12 millimeter coating of silicon-copper-yttrium rigid polymer as an antiradiation coating. Beyond the necessary cuts and welds for propulsion and warhead hardware installation, minimal penetrations are made by phaser cutters, so that the hull may be rendered as near to EM-silent as is technologically possible. All seals around extended components are treated with a suspension of forced-matrix ferrenimide, which establishes a minute amount of dounetic field activity, effectively blocking EM leakage. All active and passive sensor pulses are channeled through machined cavities in the inner hull at approximately 26 centimeter intervals in all three axes.
The heart of the current system is the zero-point field reaction chamber, a teardrop-shaped enclosure fabricated from a single crystal of directionally strengthened rodinium-ditellenite. the chamber measures 0.76 meters in diameter by 1.38 meters in length and 2.3 centimeters in average thickness. The assembly is penetrated by a single opening in the tapered end, cut by a nanometer phaser in an inert atmosphere of argon and neon. Two jacketing layers, one of synthetic neutronium and another of dilithium, control the upper and lower extremes of the energy-field contours. Attached to the taper opening is a zero-point initator consisting of an EM rectifier, waveguide bundle, subspace field amplifier and continuum distortion emitter. The emitter creates the actual pinch field from a conical spike 10(-16) meters across at the tip.
The zero-point initiator is powered by the detonation of an uprated photon torpedo warhead with the yield of 21.8 isotons, achieved through increased matter-antimatter surface area contact and introduction of fluoronetic vapor. The M/A reaction occurs at four times the rate of a standard warhead. The detonation energy is channeled through the initator within 10(-7) seconds and energizes the emitter, which imparts a tension force upon the vacuum domain. As the vacuum membrane expandes, over a period of 10(-4) seconds, an energy potential equivalent to at least 50 isotons is created. This energy is held by the chamber for 10(-8) seconds and is then released by the controlled failure of the chamber wall.
Torpedo Flight Systems: Propulsion for the quantum torpedo is handled by four microfusion thrusters working in concert with standard warp field sustainer coils. Propellant supply valves, cross-feeds to the photon detonator, and M/A tankage are housed in the aft compartment. Guidance, navagation, and fusing of the torpedo is controlled by the onbaord computer and sensor array. The main processor for the computer is a bio-neural gel cylinder surrounded by a low-level inboard warp field for FTL computations and a low-level outboard thoron web to block threat force countermeasure radiation.
A total of 53 saftey interlocks are distributed across all systems. Since the zero-point vacuum initiator contains numerous rare alloys and elements and cannot be replicated, fabrication has proven a long and painstaking process, requiring the enforcement of stricter safety protocol levels for the program and forcing difficult allocation decisions for availble torpedo inventories. As the current Alpha Quadrant conflict warrants the in-theater storage of high-readiness assets. While the torpedo structure remains robust during manufacture, transit, storage, and ultimately launching, special handling and loading precaustions must be taken to insure warhead survival. Normal procedures includes antigravs, telerobotic servicing, and use of protective buffer fields.
Torpedo Operations Systems: Launch and maneuvering velocities up to 0.993c may be accomplished with onboard M/A reactant consumption of no more than 23 percent; launch at warp will decrease reactant use to 15% due to the launcher hand-off warp field. If the torpedo is moving at warp and its target drops to impulse, the torpedo will not make a commensurate drop to impulse, since it cannot re-establish its warp sustainer field. In this case it would detonate on impact or at closest approach, using data from the proximity sensors and three-axis relative velocity algorithms. If the torpedo and the target are both at high impulse, and the target ramps up to warp, the torpedo will still have sufficient velocity to reach an effective destruct radius.
- The information above is taken from the DS9 Technical Manual.