Since Starfleet began as an agency of Earth, it is important to understand the events surrounding humanity's entry into the galactic community. The seeds that resulted in the foundation of Starfleet were sown on the morning of April 4, 2063. On that day, Zefram Cochrane became the first human to travel faster than the speed of light. The Vulcan ship T'Plana-Hath happened to be passing through the system that same morning. The Vulcans, who had been aware of humans for some time but avoided contacting them due to their "primitive" nature, detected the Phoenix's warp flight. The ship's captain, Solkar, contacted the Vulcan High Command, and after much debate, deemed Earth suitable for contact. That evening, the Vulcans landed in Bozeman, Montana and asked to meet with the man who flew the Phoenix. Later, Captain Solkar met with various Earth leaders in San Francisco, on the same site where years earlier those leaders' predecessors signed a treaty to end the nuclear holocaust that had plagued the world for over two decades. Solkar described his race as a peaceful and logical people and pledged their help to Earth in their emerging interstellar age. A few weeks later, on August 15, the New United Nations declared the creation of the United Earth Space Probe Agency, a combination of the various space agencies that survived the Third World War. UESPA as it soon came to be known would quickly begin organizing a mass scramble into space, sending hundreds of probes and dozens of ships on missions of exploration within the next two decades.
Faster Than Light
It is important to understand the nature of Zefram Cochrane's role in the greater scheme of history. Many casually refer to Cochrane as the "inventor of warp drive." Technically, this is incorrect, as many races, particularly the Vulcans, possessed warp capability long before their neighbors. Cochrane did, however, invent the template for the 'modern' warp drive that would become the standard for the Earth Starfleet and later the Federation Starfleet. Termed the "fluctuation super-impeller" on Cochrane's original drawing boards, the modern warp drive has changed little since its inception those three hundred years ago, as illustrated by the design of the Phoenix herself. Like many innovators, Cochrane owes much to researchers that preceded him. Scientists in June of 2048 discovered the existence of the substrate within which our universe exists. A domain outside normal three dimensional space, they named this place subspace. They found that certain energetic reactions could create an intrusion of this domain into our own space, altering the behavior of things within our spacetime. They called this intrusion a "subspace field". With subspace being a continuum with different laws than our own, subspace fields had the capability to "warp" the spacetime continuum. This led scientists all over the world to foresee the advent of faster than light communications. While a doctoral student at California Institute of Technology in January of 2049, Zefram Cochrane first postulated that a spaceship could use subspace fields projected by a series of coils to warp the fabric of space and that ship could use that warp to propel it faster than light. This drive would work by contracting spacetime in front of the ship and expanding spacetime behind it. The starship itself would rests in a "warp bubble" between the two spacetime distortions. This warped space, together with the region between it, would accelerate off faster than the speed of light and the vessel would then surf the wave in spacetime created by this distortion. (Dr. Miguel Alcubierre, a theoretical physicist, first originated the basic idea on the late 20th century.) Travel at velocities exceeding the speed of light would be possible in this fashion because the starship would be, strictly speaking, stationary (relative to the space of its warp bubble) while spacetime itself would be moving. Since spacetime itself would be moving and the starship would not actually be accelerating, it would experience no time dilation, allowing the passage of time inside the vessel to be the same as that outside it.
Cochrane's work was made possible in the first place by a series of well-timed discoveries, beginning before the holocausts. Foremost was the discovery of a previously unknown alloy called verterium cortenide by Earth scientists. The substance, when energized properly, would emit an unusual field which would actually warp the local space around it. Cochrane designed coils which he planned to energize with the plasma from a fusion reactor. Arranged in nacelles, when fired sequentially the coils would "push" the subspace field around the ship, actually moving the ship through space without violating the laws of physics. An unmanned test vehicle successfully hit light speed for several seconds, and the telemetry provided by the test vehicle allowed Cochrane to design a prototype ship and plan a manned flight. Unfortunately, Earth's Third World War interrupted his plans.
Cochrane's flight was, in retrospect, nearly a miracle. Only a decade earlier, the nations of Earth had brought an end to the most vicious conflict of their time, the Third World War. Six hundred million people were killed in the various nuclear holocausts that were a part of the war. Cochrane is one of a number of great minds spared from death via a government relocation program, which is why he ended up in a missile silo in Montana in the first place. A recent encounter by the crew of the Starship Enterprise-E with Cochrane in the days surrounding his first flight has shed invaluable light on Cochrane and his experiments. After the war finally ended, with most of the world's governments left in shambles, little importance was placed on reaching out to the stars. Cochrane, though, had other dreams. Together with his chief engineer, Lily Sloane, Cochrane and his team sought to finish the work they had began. It seems Cochrane hoped that, in the impoverished world of the late 21st century, his invention would give him the fame and prosperity he long hoped for.
The Phoenix was constructed atop an unused Titan V missile booster, as such subject to a number of major design limitations. Its humble shape would nonetheless be emblematic with what warp drive was to become for the next three hundred years. The Phoenix vessel itself consisted of two segments: a command capsule, and a central fuselage with chemical rockets at the end. The command capsule contained limited life support systems and atmospheric reentry thrusters and parachutes, while the fuselage housed engine systems. The warp drive and nacelles themselves were constructed by Cochrane prior to his "stranding" in Montana, and were likewise relocated there for their protection. The engine system was powered by a fusion tokamak the size of a large barrel installed in the central fuselage. The twin cylindrical nacelles were mounted on either side of the main fuselage, within recessed sections specifically designed to house them. When launched, the Phoenix "payload" would separate, with the outer plating peeling away and allowing the nacelles to extend. Cochrane's unmanned test article utilized a single, internal long-axis warp nacelle, but telemetry indicated a ship with outboard nacelles would be necessary to adequately protect its occupants from radiation. Further, Cochrane's studies indicated that two sets of wide-spaced nacelles would produce a more stable warp field. At the forward end of each nacelle, Cochrane's team placed ramscoops, termed "Bussard collectors" in honor of physicist Robert Bussard. These scoops were magnetic, designed to attract free hydrogen molecules for the ship to use as fuel. Bussard collectors had been in the experimental stages for a number of years, as a potential means of fuel collector for sublight ships within the solar system. (Cochrane's design team believed they would be a valuable asset on their original prototype design, and the collectors' presence on the Phoenix was only a result of the prefabricated nacelles.) Two other critical systems were installed aboard the Phoenix: the navigational deflector and the inertial damper. The navigational deflector, in contrast to the Bussard collectors, was designed to push molecules which would otherwise be harmful out of the ship's flight path, while the inertial damper was necessary to protect the crew from the acceleration of the warp drive, which would otherwise liquefy the ship's occupants.
Cochrane's flight lasted only a few seconds, but was more than enough to change centuries to come. After returning to Earth and meeting with the Vulcans and Earth leaders, Cochrane and his team produced several more warp prototypes and helped re-engineer numerous existing sublight ships to incorporate warp drive. Cochrane and his surviving team members went on to found the Cochrane Propulsion Systems, which survives to this day as a leader in warp propulsion technology. Cochrane built and tested another warp ship, the Phoenix II, on March 17, 2090, reaching an unprecedented speed of warp 1.8. The Phoenix II closely resembled Cochrane's original pre-WWIII plans for the Phoenix I. Dr. Cochrane soon led an expedition to the Alpha Centauri colony to be able to more freely conduct his warp experiments, which became more erratic and tremendous in his later years. Cochrane, aged and grayed, returned to Earth one final time in 2119 for the opening ceremony of the Warp Five Complex. Cochrane played off his image as an aged hermit as he jokingly introduced himself as "Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri" and mentioned that he came "in peace." Cochrane disappeared without a trace later that year, having built himself a small warp ship and departed Alpha Centauri for parts unknown. The Phoenix I is housed today in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on Earth, while the Phoenix II can be found at the Cochrane Propulsion Systems Museum on Alpha Centauri.
The S.S. Valiant was a typical Earth ship of the immediate period after Cochrane's warp flight and first contact. Despite the post-apocalyptic devastation that pervaded the planet, the nations of the world were slowly united their desire to travel to the stars. Many nations' economies remained sturdy enough that they quickly began exploratory and research efforts under the auspices of UESPA. Corporate interests in these nations maintained sublight ships prior to the war which were appropriated afterward for refit to warp flight specifications, allowing mankind to quickly begin its journey into the stars. The Vulcans warned against premature space voyages, feeling Earth wasn't ready for the dangers that lay before them, but humanity was too stubborn and too eager to listen.
The Valiant was originally designed for payload-carrying flights between Earth and her outposts within the solar system, but was reconceived as mankind's first true faster than light spaceship. The original hull structure consisted of a blocky primary fuselage with a small command pod forward and four nuclear rockets aft. Renovations to the ship to make it warp capable were overseen by Zefram Cochrane. Fusion reactor output was increased to power new warp engines, which were mounted on thin struts extending from the top of the fuselage section. The ship, in its new form, was launched in 2065 with a small crew. Their mission was one of simple reconnaissance, surveying solar systems within a few light years of the Sol System, but ultimately the ship was caught by a magnetic storm and lost contact with Earth. UESPA was unable to send a search ship right away, and Earth leaders were wary of what cost asking favors of the Vulcans would incur. Undeterred nonetheless, humanity honored the crew of Valiant as heroes and several other ships of the same class and similar designs were launched in subsequent years. No trace of Valiant was found, and ultimately the ship was officially declared lost.
Surprisingly, in 2265 the U.S.S. Enterprise discovered the Valiant's recorder marker largely intact and learned that the ship had inexplicably been swept toward the dangerous Galactic Barrier, a voyage impossible for the primitive ship to have made on her own. Apparently, when the crew discovered their location, they attempted to explore and traverse the barrier, only to fall victim to a dangerously psychotic mutated crew member possessing ESP powers. Ultimately, the Captain scuttled the ship. A similar fate nearly befell the Enterprise. Modern urban legends say the Valiant was evacuated before her destruction, with surviving crew members settling a nearby class-M world. These legends, long refuted by the historic community, have been surprisingly corroborated by the discovery of a previously unknown human colony on a class-M world near the site where the ship was believed lost.
Before WWIII, Earth governments and corporations were in the process of developing sleeper ships, based on modular generational designs, capable of reaching nearby solar systems and establishing a colony. With the implementation of warp drive, their concepts gained new relevance. Previous designs were revised to include warp drive, culminating with the launch of the first warp powered colony ship, Conestoga, in 2069 with purpose of colonizing a class-M planet near Earth human cartographers named Terra Nova.
Conestoga was a typical ship of her era, comprised of a large fuselage with a small extended forward control pod and nuclear rockets aft, with warp nacelles mounted at the end of short wing-like pylons. Her fuselage was modular, designed for disassembly after arrival at Terra Nova to allow construction of the settlement from her components.
Conestoga arrived in orbit of Terra Nova in 2078 after a nine year trip and was shortly dismantled to build the colony. The colony was a success, so successful that UESPA planned to send another colony ship to Terra Nova. The first colonists were unreceptive to the idea, and ultimately threatened violence to any ship that entered orbit. That would be the last transmission received from the colony, as all subsequent contact was lost, and UESPA lacked the resources (and privately, some admitted, motivation) to launch an investigative mission. Nevertheless, the success of the original colony spurred on the creation of the Alpha Centauri and Vega colonies by the early 22nd century as the first human outposts outside the solar system. Conestoga was an inspiration for other modular colony ships in later centuries that were quite successful. Further, ships of similar modular design were in use in the mid 22nd century by Starfleet as short range patrol ships and couriers of both cargo and personnel.
U.S.S. Enterprise XCV-330
Annular warp ships, or so-called "ring ships" are a hallmark oddity of the unusual interim period between Earth's first contact with the Vulcans and the solidification of the United Earth government. Among several scientific revelations the Vulcans shared with humanity was the concept of warp factors, a non-linear measure of the speed of warp. The Vulcans told them that warp factors are, in terms of their light speed equivalents, not absolute, but only relative figures, depending on the local properties of space and subspace, the multiples are only minimum/average values under "normal" conditions. The actual values of warp speed are dependent upon interstellar conditions like gas density, electric and magnetic fields and fluctuations in the subspace domain as well as energy penalties resulting from quantum drag forces and power oscillation inefficiencies. Humanity instantly began a race to develop faster, longer range ships capable of deep space voyages. The Vulcans also revealed that there are regions of space where a starship can travel at speeds significantly higher than normal. These regions can consist of broad areas encompassing a number of whole star systems, or narrow corridors which can extend for many thousands of light years. Human scientists nicknamed these places "warp highways". The effect of warp highways is to multiply the speed associated with any given warp factor. They allow the journey time across known space to be cut from years or even decades down to a matter of days. The Vulcans also revealed that whilst some regions of space have a speed multiplier, there are also regions where the speed value is decreased. These regions, which are commonly nicknamed "warp shallows", are generally more common than warp highways and tend to cover a larger area. Warp shallows can be caused by a variety of phenomena. These phenomena allowed low-warp ships possessed during Earth's initial space-faring years to travel impressive distances considering their power. Nonetheless, humanity wanted faster ships.
As mankind continued developing its warp drive technology, striving with limited success to surpass the warp two barrier, scientists struggled to find a propulsion model that might surpass the performance of the "Cochrane model" of twin nacelle-driven vessels. The ships of the Vulcan fleet operated using "annular warp drive," warp coils arranged in a ring shape that essentially surrounded the ship with one giant warp coil. At the time, these drives were believed to be the way of the future, and human engineers were quick to try to emulate them. Human annular warp ships appeared in 2088 with the Bellerophon class, a short-range surveyor manned by a dozen crewpersons. The design consisted of a command pod mounted at the end of a long boom, with fusion rockets aft for sublight propulsion and a single annular warp ring encircling the boom, attached via a main dorsal pylon and two smaller support struts. The command pod was so isolated due to radiation hazards presented by the warp drive. Several more classes based closely on the design were built shortly thereafter, each with moderate success.
Spurred on by the apparent success of the vehicles, the massive Declaration class ring ship was soon designed by the United States' NASA organization under the authority of UESPA with major funding provided by private backers. The design was planned to become the first Earth ship to break warp two, and was a symbol of American pride as much as it was for all humanity; the United States, feeling eclipsed by the emerging United Earth government (founded January 4, 2113), sought to demonstrate that it was still a proud and capable people and made sure that the warp two ship would be American. The design was a variant of the basic ring ship shape 300 meters long, with twin annular warp rings encircling the boom.
The first ship of the class, Declaration, XCV-110 (eXperimental Cruise Vehicle plus the number xx0 based on production order), was severely damaged on an initial test flight and delayed from active service for several years. The second, Constitution, XCV-220 was destroyed in an engineering accident while being assembled in orbit, killing fourteen people and destroying an orbital construction dock. The third built, and ironically first commissioned for duty, was Enterprise, designated XCV-330, launched in 2123. Ultimately, the ship would never pass warp two but would serve admirably in its limited capacity, as a technological wonder of the era. Scientists soon discovered that the high maximum speed of ring ships was countered by a low cruise speed, due to the shape of the warp field the rings produced. Six more Declaration class ships were built, but nevertheless the Declaration class would be the last of its type developed by Earth.
When Starfleet was founded as a part of UESPA's reorganization by the United Earth government in 2134, U.S.S. Enterprise and other ring ships became Starfleet ships, gaining "U.E.S." prefixes. Engineers returned to the proven nacelle configuration pioneered by Cochrane, and would finally break the warp two barrier as part of the NX Program in 2143. Ring ships still in service were upgraded to higher speeds as the years passed, but would all be decommissioned by the 2160s. Some decommissioned ships were sold into private ownership, and found use as pleasure liners since they offered high performance for relatively low crew and fuel requirements. The annular configuration would prove to be a deviation rather than a trendsetter in Starfleet design, though the Vulcans would continue to use variations of the annular warp drive ships for over two centuries.
Starfleet was officially founded as a sister organization of UESPA by the United Earth government in 2134, twenty-one years after UESPA was incorporated into the founding of United Earth. UESPA was responsible for organizing and launching various scientific and exploratory programs, but had no ships or vehicles of its own, instead utilizing various government and private agencies to actually build and operate ships and outposts. These agencies, such as the United States' NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Russian Space Agency, were also responsible defending Earth colonies, freight lines and cargo ships, and other interests. Starfleet was founded to relieve these responsibilities from the various agencies and combine them into one, well-organized body. NASA and the other agencies ceased to exist at this time. Most of Starfleet's first ships were previously existing ships appropriated from their respective operating agencies, but within ten years Starfleet was designing and launching ships of its own. Early ships, capable only of low warp and limited range voyages, were designated "surveyors," giving way to the "cruiser" designation as later vessels exceeded the warp two barrier. Earth Starfleet ship classes were typically designated by letter names, but were colloquially referred to by the name of the first ship of the class, a practice that would become standard in later centuries.
Vessels themselves dropped the individual national prefixes used prior, such as "U.S.S.," "H.M.S.," or "V.K." in favor of a "U.E.S." (United Earth Ship) designation. In practice, the U.E.S. was rarely used by personnel when referring to their ships. In addition, a ship's first captain was often granted permission to name his or her ship and attached craft if they wished.
Earth Starfleet would be responsible for numerous breakthroughs in the field of space exploration and would successfully defend the Earth from various threats including the Romulans in the Earth-Romulan War. Starfleet would change with the foundation of the Federation in 2161, as all space agencies were absorbed into the new Federation command structure and united under a somewhat different agency using the Starfleet name. Under the new organizational scheme, the Federation Starfleet became the authority to which all vessels reported while local authorities became responsible for actually operating ships. Earth Starfleet ceased to exist as a separate entity, its remnants reorganized and folded into UESPA.
Neptune (ND Class)
It is a proven fact that nearly any properly equipped vehicle can be made to travel at warp speed regardless of its shape. The only real requirements for warp flight are power and structural integrity; aerodynamics are not important in space. However, one of human engineer's discoveries that could only come with time and experience was the fact that the shape of a ship does affect warp field flow and performance. This fact was discovered somewhat haphazardly by Earth scientists although Vulcans had previously alluded to it. Earth engineers had mounted warp ships to several aerodynamic ships originally designed for atmospheric flight and over time data showed that some of these ships were much more efficient than other ships. Like with warp coil configuration, Earth engineers began experimenting with various hull configurations. Early shapes pursued were evocative of those aerodynamic ships, including the Neptune or ND class.
The Neptune was designed in the late 2130s, the first ship class fully designed and built by the new Starfleet. The design was delta shaped with nacelles mounted to either side at the tip of short wing-like pylons. The class was envisioned as a warp two survey ship, and designed to carry only a small crew for short-range missions. At the time the NX program was beginning, and Starfleet planners realized that if successful the NX class would quickly eclipse the capabilities of the Neptune. They planned for the ND class to become a support ship once more capable ships came into service, a plan which came to fruition in the early 2150s. The Neptune was launched in 2140, and pioneered many design traits that would become hallmarks of the Earth Starfleet, including the first 'modern' impulse rockets. They were armed with plasma cannons and Trident-class fusion-based spatial torpedoes (which became the fleet standard for the next thirty years) and were defended by polarized hull armor. They carried a crew of twenty-five. Fourteen of the ships were originally built before the Romluan War, with a few more launched during the first half of the war. The class was finally retired in the 2160s. The last remaining ship, the Osiris, ND-23, is now housed at the fleet museum.
Sarajevo (NC Class)
The NC class was a cruiser class designed during the early 22nd century; significant as one of the early Earth vessels to use internalized warp nacelles that would set a trend for such compact ships in the war but later prove impractical until they gained use again in the 24th century with the Defiant class. Was NC class, ordered before the NDs but launched afterward in 2145. The class was conceived in a support role as an "elite observation cruiser," and would serve as command cruisers during the Romulan War. Other ships of the class included the Shenandoah, NC-03, which is today housed at the fleet museum.
Saratoga (NV Class)
Launched in 2146 as a test for hull geometry and design features developed for the NX project, the NV class ship was in many ways the predecessor to the primary hull-based light cruisers and frigates such as the Miranda and Nebula classes of later centuries. Ten ships of the class were built before the outbreak of the Romulan War, and only a few more were launched afterward. Once the NX class was launched, the NV became the workhorse of the fleet, but ultimately was as short lived as their larger cousins. Other ships of the class included Intrepid, NV-02, which is preserved at the fleet museum, and Republic, NV-06.
Warp Five and the Romulan War
Enterprise (NX Class)
In early 2148, as final test work concluded on the NX Program, a shape began to take from in drydock in orbit of Earth. The vessel under construction was not only the culmination of decades of research, it was also a revolution in starship design, and the shape of things to come. The vessel which Zefram Cochrane so vehemently insisted should be named Enterprise was the first true interstellar multi-mission starship produced by Earth since its entry into the space age. Other ships before her had speed or power, but no ship possessed the balance of functionality, or the Warp Five engine, that characterized Enterprise.
The first design work on the vessel officially designated U.E.S. Enterprise, NX-01 began in 2119, when the Warp Five Complex was built on Earth, and took over thirty years to complete. The ship was unquestionable ahead of her time. Described as "overcomplicated" and "cantankerous" by some of the officers that served on them, the NX class could be called a DeLorean or Edsel by the historically savvy, another deviation in the development of Star Fleet design of the period rather than a trendsetter.
Enterprise and her ilk possessed the most powerful engine yet developed at the time of her launch. The ships possessed the first truly practical human-built matter-antimatter warp reactor. Earlier M/AM reactors were successfully tested on unmanned probes but long proved too dangerous and impractical for implementation aboard manned spacecraft; only by adding dilithium to modulate the M/AM reaction did the design become practical, and by channeling that reactant plasma through an accelerator assembly, the ship could achieve unprecedented speed. Rated at a speed of warp five (OCU), the ship could actually sustain speeds of just around warp four-point-five in her early career. The ship was also equipped with an impressive defense, including polaric hull plating, spatial torpedoes armed with fusion warheads, photonic torpedoes and phase laser cannons. (Photonic torpedoes dropped from use during the war due to resource shortages.) The ship also possessed an impressive suite of scientific systems, including then-advanced active and passive scanners and long range sensors, which helped set the standard for such equipment on future Starfleet vessels. It is an historic curiosity that many of the vessels of the era were designated with letter names, i.e. "NX class." Modern naval parlance suggests starship classes be named for the first ship of the class, and as such some historians tend to refer to the class as "Enterprise class," which can become even more confusing because the Class One/Constitution Class heavy cruiser refit of 2270 first demonstrated on the U.S.S. Enterprise is sometimes referred to as "Enterprise class" as well, a confusing issue by itself. As such, it is simpler to refer to the NX class by its original name.
NX class ships were relatively basic in shape, and were outlined by Zephram Cochrane himself prior to his disappearance. It is now believed that the shape he described was a result of temporal contamination; his brief observation of the time-displaced U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-E in 2063 during his first warp flight is now a matter of historic record. At any rate, the shape he described would decades later become the hallmark of Starfleet design. The inhabitable hull consisted of two flattened hemispheres forming a "saucer" shape, with the main bridge mounted atop it. When Enterprise was undergoing initial design work, simpler shapes such as spheres and tetrahedrons were standard in Starfleet design due to the ease with which they could be built and pressurized. However, recent warp flow simulation showed that saucers would result in a more stable warp field, thus beginning a paradigm shift to saucers. Twin un-pressurized catamaran hulls extended aft (housing the plasma accelerator systems that made the Warp Five engine unique) to support the centralized symmetric field generator and twin warp nacelles. The aft ends of the catamarans featured main impulse rockets, and secondary units were located on either side of the aft end of the saucer. A notch at the fore end of the saucer housed the main deflector, with sensor elements surrounding and scattered at other key directional points across the ship. An aft notch area providing a staging area for engineering crews in event that impromptu repairs of the warp drive were needed while in deep space, as well as access to the ship's cargo bays. The ship's hull was equivalent to an old Swiss army knife, with armor panels and hatches hiding almost all equipment and technology, a design aesthetic that would carry on well into the mid twenty-third century. Indeed, part of the character of Enterprise and her sisters' textured appearance came from the armor plating that covered their hulls, as the ships pre-dated human use of shield technology.
Enterprise herself was first rush-launched in 2151, and major refinements to her design were made during the ship's initial service career in space. While most modern-day people are unfamiliar with the details of the era, most are familiar with the historical significance of the ship and her crew. Under the command of Captain Jonathan Archer, NX-01 and her crew made contact with dozens of civilizations and brought about the Coalition of Planets that eventually gave way to the United Federation of Planets. NX-02, Columbia, was later launched in 2154, and nearly a dozen more were planned to follow, each benefiting from the previous ships' service experiences. Many were named after old Earth ships, particularly NASA's early shuttles of the late 20th century. However, during the Romulan War, resource shortages effectively crippled original NX production plans. Enterprise and her few sisters served valiantly at the front in the Romulan War (2156-2160). Captain Archer guided Enterprise through innumerable tense battles. After the war, Starfleet's Command Council held extensive hearings on the state of the fleet, and ultimately concluded that the NX class was too inefficient and not durable enough to continue service. Enterprise herself was ordered into retirement that year after nearly ten years of service. The last active NX class ship, Atlantis, which bore only marginal resemblance to her pre-war siblings had been relegated to local-space patrol and exploration duties, was retired by the end of 2175.
The Romulan War
Despite the hardships Earth endured through the dawn of its interstellar age, its people were largely unprepared for a full-scale war when it was finally thrust onto their doorstep. However, it is well worth noting that humanity, and later her allies, rose to the occasion. It's often observed by historians that it's difficult to trace the exact paths that lead to and run through the horror of war, and this is certainly true in this case.
Humanity first made contact, indirectly, with the Romulans in 2152, when Enterprise NX-01 strayed into Romulan space and became ensnared in a minefield. The Romulans nearly destroyed the ship before it could escape. Earth had never heard of the Romulans, and Vulcans knew of them by reputation, but in fact the Romulans knew a great deal more about both of them. As is now common knowledge, the Romulans are an ancient offshoot of the Vulcan people. Their ancestors left Vulcan during the Time of Awakening because of their opposition to the teachings of Surak. They wandered through space on meager vessels until settling on a world which human cartographers called Romulus. The Romulan ships were exhausted, and were disassembled to construct the new settlement. Most of their then-advanced technology was lost.
It would take the Romulans until the early 22nd century to regain even limited warp flight. The Romulan region of space was relatively poor in resources, and expansionist forces soon urged the Romulans to push outward. During this time, Romulus 'rediscovered' its Vulcan cousins, although they remained largely anonymous. Romulans also first encountered humanity. Aries, an old Earth low-warp explorer, wandered into Romulan-held space in 2148. The ship was captured, its crew interrogated and reportedly dissected. Similarly, the ship itself was broken up and analyzed. Aries was reported missing in the following months, but no sign of it was ever recovered by Starfleet; only recently declassified Romulan files provide her true fate.
In subsequent years, Terran shipping would suffer a building number of anonymous attacks that have since been attributed to Romulan pre-war hostility, culminating with that first official encounter with the Romulans by Enterprise in 2152. It is noteworthy that the vessels encountered by Enterprise have long remained something of a historic mystery; their configuration and level of technology contrast starkly with the vessels in use by the Romulans before, during, and after the war. They were even rumored to have practical cloaking technology over a full century before the Romulans employed it for widespread use. Federation historians have long speculated on the topic. According to recent records made public by the Romulans, the ships encountered by Enterprise were testbeds for new technology, and the destruction of the lead ship, the Praetor Pontilus, in a catastrophic antimatter failure caused by her cloaking system, ensured that it would be decades before the Romulans would possess a successful cloaking device. It would seem that they, like Starfleet with the NX class, had stumbled across technology ahead of their time that would ultimately take decades to perfect.
After the initial encounter of 2152, Starfleet made a concerted effort to learn everything they could about the Romulans and establish diplomatic contact with them, but to no avail. In 2156, humans established their first starbase in the Berengaria system, designated Station Salem One. According to intelligence reports declassified in recent years, the paranoid Romulans, already suspicious of human expansion and contact with the Vulcans, were afraid Salem One would be an outpost from which to attack their interests and claims on resource-rich worlds. These, and a number of other 'incidents' with the Romulans, including ambushes of Earth vessels and other simply unprecedented attacks and civilian atrocities that, as most historians agree, made war almost inevitable.
The Romulans utterly annihilated Salem One, killing hundreds and destroying the Starfleet ship Endeavour, despite the arrival of Enterprise, NX-01, on the scene. The Terra Prime movement, which believed all aliens should be expelled from Earth outposts, blamed all alien races and called for swift retribution. The Romulan fleet, divided into attack wings, proceeded to raid Earth bases and destroy Earth ships and comm buoys. Earth pressed for support from other members of the Coalition, but none were prepared to fight the Romulans. Indeed, the Coalition had been proven impotent almost instantly after its creation and soon dissolved. Exhausted of diplomatic alternatives, Earth prepared to go to war against the Romulan Empire virtually alone. Only the Vulcans continued to stand with humanity, but, in light of their recent societal re-alignment towards pacifism, in only a limited role.
Earth was truly ill-equipped for the bloody conflict that lay before them. As mentioned earlier, the Romulan fleet, while relatively primitive, was well-organized and capable, while Starfleet had barely gotten into deep space. The fleets had different focuses. Starfleet had long been building ships of peaceful exploration and patrol, and despite the Xindi threat of 2153, continued to do so. Starfleet had also only begun building matter-antimatter-powered starships within the last two decades. Fusion-powered ships may have been acceptable for short-range exploration, but were largely unsuitable for interstellar combat. Three more under construction NX class ships were rushed into the launch stage with virtually only warp and weapons in operation, with mixed service results. Romulan ships, however, were built for conquest. Romulan warp sleds could deploy entire squads of low-velocity birds of prey within striking distance of Earth targets from one carrier. Indeed, this tactic devastated several human outposts. Meanwhile, long-range warbirds plundered and destroyed human freighters and outposts across the known regions, crippling Earth's supply infrastructure before the war had even truly began.
Vulcan provided some relief, but Starfleet's production of NX and other such pre-war ships was almost hopelessly behind due to supply shortages. Even if Starfleet had the resources, NX class ships and her cousins could take up to three years to be built from scratch. Starfleet engineers were sent back to the drawing boards to design more efficient vessels. Starfleet needed even smaller, dedicated fighting ships capable of combating the agile Romulan birds of prey, and thus the so-called Cylinder Ship Program was born. "Flying submarines" as some called them, little more than simple cylinders with warp nacelles, filled this particular niche, with existing NX class ships becoming the equivalent of capital ships, being the only ships with true ranged fighting capabilities.
The "flying submarines," such as the Farragut and Conqueror classes, were little more than guns with engines. Their designs were derived from the lineage of Dyson-Yoyodyne Corporation's DY series, made popular in the first decades of Earth's warp flights. On these ships, even crew quarters seemed an afterthought. Space was at a premium, with no room for quarter or compromise. Supplies were rationed precisely to avoid waste. Starfleet captains by necessity could not take prisoners. Weapons primarily consisted of fusion torpedoes and pulse cannon lasers. Most did not possess shields, and were only equipped with the most bare hull armor. Their warp drives were also quite limited, and quite dangerous. What the ships possessed in speed and agility, they lost in durability. Classified Starfleet reports of the era suggested "that Command should be prepared to accept a minimal 10 percent loss of ships due to catastrophic reactor failure alone." However, their crews, usually approximately a dozen per ship, knew the risks all too well even without being briefed on them. Many didn't make it home.
Despite a valiant effort by Earth and her Vulcan allies, humanity continued to suffer heavy casualties for the next two years. Romulans employed "primitive" nuclear weapons, which proved surprisingly effective against the polarized shielding of Earth vessels, resulting in profound radiation poisoning and death among their victims. Ground battles were practically rendered moot, as nuclear planetary barrages of enemy strongholds, even destroying their own troops, seemed to be Romulan modus operandi. During an early skirmish, a Starfleet squadron defeated a superior Romulan attack force near Delta IV. Moving to capture the disabled Romulan ships, the Earth ships were caught off guard when the Romulans suddenly destroyed themselves, taking a number of Starfleet ships with them. It soon became standing Starfleet orders to destroy disabled Romulan ships rather than allow them to engage in such kamikaze detonations. Visual encounters with Romulans were few and far between, and such that, even by the war's end humans did not officially know what Romulans looked like. Unofficially, at the time, members of the crew of Enterprise knew the true appearance of the Vulcans' cousins, but a conspiracy on the part of Section 31 ensured the general public would not. This would remain classified information for the next hundred years.
From the initial spear the Romulans captured into Coalition space, Earth gained momentum in re-taking its former holdings, hopping from planet to planet. Human shipbuilding slowly began to recover. Earth continued to prod its fellow Coalition members to join Earth in the fight, and finally, by 2159, the Andorians, Tellarites, Denobulans, Axanar, and most of the rest of the other Coalition species had agreed. Most of these races had suffered casualties and shipping losses during the war at the hands of the Romulans. The entry of Earth's allies into the war marked the turning point in the war. The combined fleets were able to put a stop to most of the Romulan raids on Earth outposts and freighters, enabling Starfleet to begin to recover from the supply shortages. Captain Jonathan Archer of Enterprise is recorded as being instrumental in negotiating the entry of many of these species into the fight, particularly the Andorians.
In late 2159, Andorian intelligence indicated the Romulans were preparing to mass a large task force near their border to strike Earth in what would be a devastating final surprise attack. However, the allied forces were able to mobilize their fleets and launch a critical preemptive strike before the entire armada was massed, destroying almost the entire Romulan armada. A small Romulan force escaped and made their way towards Earth, intent on finishing the fight once and for all by bombarding Earth with nuclear weapons. The allied fleet was able to stop the assault near the orbit of the Plutonian moon, Cheron. The Romulan fleet was left virtually crippled after their flagship was destroyed. Surviving ships were destroyed or self-destructed on site. Subsequently, the Romulan Empire surrendered, and an armistice was declared. A treaty was subsequently negotiated over subspace, establishing a Neutral Zone between the Romulan Empire and the Coalition worlds. The Romulan Empire entered a sort of self-imposed isolation for the next hundred years in defeat. Earth casualties were of a caliber not seen since the last world war.
The unfortunate irony of this war was, of course, that it saw birth to the United Federation of Planets. Fighting together proved that the various former coalition races could truly work effectively together, and Earth's first stellar war had served to help unify her people. That, combined with a desire to prevent the threat of the Romulans or anyone else from endangering them again, prompted these races to found the UFP in 2161. Starfleet, meanwhile, became the cornerstone of the UFP's military and exploratory wing. Each world would contribute its own ships to the combined fleet, until a special combined fleet could be built, as part of a plan designed to gradually integrate each planet’s armed services with one another.
In the wake of the end of the war, Starfleet was left with a fleet of Earth ships built both before and exclusively for the war. Many were heavily damaged, but a sizeable portion was still operational. A number of ships were simply and unceremoniously scrapped. Daedalus class ships coming into service took on fleet lead roles, while many of the remaining flying submarines were upgraded and became patrol ships along the various borders of the fledgling Federation. Meanwhile, Starfleet engineers turned back to a program that had been waylaid by the war before it could even really begin: the Warp Seven Project.
As much as Enterprise represented the pinnacle of Starfleet technology and shipbuilding knowhow in her era, Daedalus came to represent the finest in practicality and reliability. The then-unnamed Daedalus was on the drawing boards as the Romulan War began, but underwent vast changes prior to their entry into full service in the second half of the Romulan War. The supply shortages during the initial phases of the war caused Star Fleet to shift its focus from elaborate to more practical starships. Originally conceived as a mass-producible extension of the NX program's technological advantages, Daedalus ultimately became a preferred alternative. In the first few years of Enterprise NX-01's mission, Starfleet became increasingly aware of the class's limitations, and many pushed for a more practical design, which became the Daedalus.
In many ways, the class was a completely different approach to starship construction. Daedalus became the first true prototype for mass ship production. The ship was designed to be modular and thus easily constructed and maintained. She featured, for the first time, a two-sectioned hull structure which would become the Starfleet standard for the next two centuries. The class also mounted a matter-antimatter reactor that would become the definitive design of the era. She carried an unprecedented maximum crew capacity 125. All of these assets would prove invaluable in the ship's combat roles in the closing days of the Romulan War.
Daedalus class ships were not as graceful or elegant as the NX series, but more than made up for it in their durability and versatility. Most of the officers to serve on them were more than willing to admit they were "plain ugly." The ships consisted of two habitable crew modules; a spherical "primary hull" that contained main control areas and crew accommodations connected by a short boom to a cylindrical "secondary hull" that housed the warp reactor and other engineering areas, as well as the ship's launch bay. The original idea behind the entire configuration was to protect the crew from radiation accidents, and minimize the need for armor between engineering and personnel areas, greatly improving the ship's performance ratings due to the reduced mass. The large reactor found in initial models replaced the complex reactor/accelerator setup found in the NX series. A more miniaturized reactor was found in later production models, allowing for increased supply storage and a resulting increase in crew capacity and range. A narrow main deflector was mounted at the front of the primary hull, and a combined deflector/sensor array was mounted at the fore end of the secondary hull. Simplified, armored twin warp nacelles extended from the boom root just fore of where it met the secondary hull. A field probe on each engine helped make warp field formation more efficient.
Most Daedalus class ships were only moderately armed. Their original conceived role as a "surveyor" called for only minimal armaments. The supply shortages suffered by Earth during the war ensured that the Daedalus class ships would have nothing more than spatial torpedoes and pulse cannon lasers. However, Daedalus class ships were among the first Earth ships to mount Vulcan shield generators as well as then-standard polaric armor. Inefficient and complex, these shield systems nonetheless ultimately proved invaluable to the ships that had them.
The Daedalus herself, originally NCV-01 and later NCC-150 under the Federation banner, was originally launched in late 2156, commissioned for active duty a year later. Subsequently fifty-three of the series were built, a then-unprecedented number. The first of these launched in 2159 after the reformed Earth allies helped stabilize Starfleet supply lines. The Daedalus represented a symbolic victory for humanity and her allies in the war, even before it had been won. After the war, most of the ships were assigned exploratory duties. Seven members of the class were lost in service. By 2186 the ships were relegated to supply and survey duties. Though the class was officially retired in 2196, the Horizon class of 2190, a variant design of the original Daedalus Block One design, continued service well into the 2230s. The spherical primary hull legacy continued with the Hope class of the 2240s and the Olympic class of the 2360s. The U.S.S. Arbiter, the last surviving member of the Daedalus class, is housed at the fleet museum.
With the official founding of the United Federation of Planets in 2161, Earth Starfleet and the other space agencies of the founding members were integrated under FLIP (Fleet Long-term Integration Plan). In the first few years of its existence, the Federation Starfleet drew its ships and manpower resources from local fleets, a trend which would continue until the mid 2260s.
Designed shortly after the Earth-Romulan War as a replacement for the NX/Enterprise type starship and spearhead of the Warp Seven Project, the design ultimately proved a failure. The class benefited both from innovations of both the old NX class and the newer Daedalus class. Taking a cue from the trend began by the Daedalus class, the ship mounted a secondary hull between its twin hull catamarans, where it housed an improved combined main deflector/sensor array on the small secondary hull as well as a main sensor in the NX saucer deflector position. The class featured armaments similar to the NX series, but featured both armor and shields, and tractor beams.
The Icarus retained the basic design of the NX, but in a larger form. The saucer was of a simpler shape. The bridge sat instead atop an enlarged teardrop-shaped platform. The twin catamaran hulls were stretched longer lengthwise, housing an even more complex plasma accelerator system based on the NX's that was key to breaking Warp Seven. The design still featured four impulse engines, but the fairing engines only served an auxiliary purpose, and the saucer units were somewhat enlarged. The secondary hull mounted an improved symmetrical field generator. The warp nacelles were improved and ruggedized versions of the NX units, slightly larger, and were somewhat more inboard. They also had added warp field sensors at the front of the bussard collectors. The engines featured shorter field grids on their sides. The warp pylons were also somewhat less raked aft.
The Icarus, NCC-400, was launched in 2175. The design proved a tremendous failure, and set the Warp Seven Project back decades. It was believed in retrospect that the design's ultimate failure owed to its unhealthy balance of practicality versus complexity, owing to its shared heritage from NX and Daedalus classes. Only a few were launched, serving with mixed results, as Starfleet continued to favor the simpler construction pioneered by the Daedalus. Ultimately, the Icarus merely served to pave the way for the Horizon class. In the meantime, other small classes, such as the Adams class scout, filled its roles.
Like the Warp Five Project before it, the Warp Seven would push the barriers of superluminal flight. However, the program was far behind schedule in 2175 when the Icarus was launched. The project would ultimately take years to complete, and in the meantime Starfleet needed a replacement for the aging NX and Daedalus classes at the forefront of Starfleet missions, and thus the Horizon design project was born. Horizon was a clear mid-step in starship design. Horizon’s heritage from both the NX and Daedalus was readily apparent, but she was also a sign of what was coming. She was simpler and somewhat more advanced than NX, but sturdier and more elegant than Daedalus. The Horizon series became one of the earliest emblems of the infant Federation. The U.S.S. Horizon (NCC-850) was first launched in 2180, named for a Daedalus class ship that had been retired several years earlier.
In shape, the Horizon resembled an enlarged version of the basic Daedalus configuration. Her spherical primary hull was a somewhat bulbous saucer evocative of the NX, with a 'neck' extending aftward to support twin nacelles and a tapered somewhat cylindrical secondary hull evocative of that of the Daedalus, housing a modernized version of the warp reactor found in late Daedalus class ships. Horizon's nacelles were similar the Daedalus type, but were more sturdy and approximately twenty percent larger. Like the Daedalus and all ships of the period, they mounted field probes at the tips of the Bussard collectors. The ship featured a combined vertical/horizontal launch bay similar to that found on the NX series. Despite not being designed specifically for combat, the class was well-armed. The Horizons were the first Starfleet ships to rely on energy shields for primary defense. They mounted multiple torpedo launchers and phase cannons. The ship mounted a large combined sensor/deflector at the front of the secondary hull that was the most advanced of the time. The design also retained a main forward sensor/deflector in the front of the primary hull, similar to the Daedalus position. (This basic configuration would be retained through the initial ships of the Excelsior class.) The ship’s advances also included a full, multi-pad transporter chamber.
The Horizon class also saw the first successful, if improvised, primary/secondary hull separation, a design feature that would become a staple safety feature in later Starfleet ships. The U.S.S. Galaxy faced an imminent antimatter containment failure that would have destroyed the ship and killed the entire crew. In a stroke of genius, the Captain and Chief Engineer devised a plan to use torpedo warheads to destroy the neck connecting the primary and secondary hulls, then use the impulse engines on the primary hull to rocket away from the secondary hull before containment failed. It was a race against time, but the plan was successful. The primary hull of the Galaxy now resides in the Fleet Museum, alongside the fully restored Horizon-class U.S.S. Serapis. All subsequently built Horizons featured the separation plan in their design, mounting stripped down torpedo warheads in the neck corridor. Over seventy of the class was built, and upgrades saw some ships remain in service for many decades. The last Horizon class ship was decommissioned in 2225. One of them, Constellation, NCC-1017, was converted for use as a testbed by the Chiokis Corporation for tests of the warp engine configuration to be used on the Constitution class. The ship was later upgraded to fully operational status and put back in service until she was destroyed in 2267
Warp Seven and Beyond
The Yorktown was the culmination of decades of research into the Warp Seven Project, and the first true modern starship of the twenty-third century. U.S.S. Yorktown NCC-1100 was launched in 2205 after the failure of the Icarus and several years of delays due to initial problems with the Warp Seven engine design, and later systems integrations problems with the ship itself. When the Warp Seven program was first announced shortly after the Romulan War, Starfleet planners believed they would have a new ship within ten years capable of warp seven speeds, partially because of the advances of the Vulcans. Pre-war Vulcan ships were said to be capable of speeds up to warp seven. However, the Vulcans had actually misled Earth Starfleet into thinking their theoretical top speeds were their actual top speeds.
Yorktown's primary hull was a flattened saucer, marking a doctrinal shift back towards saucer-shaped primary hulls. It mounted a large impulse deck aft, and retained a main sensor notch forward atop the primary hull. The saucer was connected via a thin, slightly angled tubular neck to the roughly cigar-shaped secondary hull, which mounted a large deflector dish forward and a horizontal launch bay/hangar deck aft. The twin warp nacelles extended at roughly thirty degrees from the long axis of the secondary hull on slightly swept pylons just aft of where the neck met the secondary hull. The warp reactor incorporated a new sequential layout evocative of the NX's plasma accelerators. The warp nacelles themselves were just slightly larger than those of Horizon, but substantially more advanced. They taper noticeably from their fore end to the aft. As previously indicated, the class was the first to include emergency separation capability as part of her original design, in which explosive bolts would destroy the ship's neck and allow the saucer to escape on impulse power. (No such practical application of the system was ever recorded.) Ships of the class were also able to eject several major engine components from behind blow-away panels.
Yorktown was equipped with advanced secondary systems that combined technologies from the various Federation races. Defenses included shields, pulse cannons, and multiple torpedo launchers. She was the first Starfleet ship to not mount polaric hull armor. The ship featured two fully functional multi-person transporter rooms, and became the first class not to rely primarily on shuttles for ship to shore transit. The class was also equipped with tractor beams as standard.
The Yorktown initially suffered critical systems integration problems, and full production was delayed until the problems were satisfactorily resolved. As was common of frontline ships of the era, only fourteen ships of the class were built, scattered over several years. The systems integration problems that plagued the prototype were never fully resolved and ultimately led to the ships being quickly decommissioned once Baton Rouge and other classes came online to supplant their duties (much as the Warp Five Project's NX class of decades prior were quickly retired after their roles as pathfinders ended.) The U.S.S. Valiant, NCC-1223, had the longest service career of the class but was ultimately lost with all hands in Star Cluster NGC-321 in 2217, a casualty of the bizarre computer-based war between planets Eminiar VII and Vendikar. The last survivor of the class, U.S.S. Priest, NCC-1107, the second ship of the class constructed, is now housed in the fleet museum.
The Baton Rouge class is an often overlooked definitive design in early twenty-third century starship construction. The reason for this is highly disputed; there is no one specific design feature of the class that immediately calls to mind the class, perhaps because they were largely overshadowed by their 'modern' Constitution class successors. Indeed, the Baton Rouge class is in many ways an embryonic Constitution, with several key design differences.
The class was the first to reconfigure the primary/secondary hull configuration to more directly delineate the command and engineering functions of the ship between sections, incorporating emergency separation protocols in its inherent design. The basic shape of the class would become synonymous with Starfleet for the next century and a half, and would give rise to what is considered by most the most successful class in Starfleet history, the Constitution. The saucer of the primary hull is unremarkable, connected to the curiously blocky secondary hull via an interconnecting dorsal nearly identical to that of the Constitution class. Twin warp nacelles were mounted at a slight incline to either side via two sets of twin nacelle pylons at such an angle that from the forward view the nacelles are beneath the saucer rim. Armaments were standard of the era, featuring defensive shields, pulse cannons, and multiple torpedo launchers. The ship also carried the most advanced transporter systems yet developed.
Nearly forty of the ships were constructed during the 2220s. The class underwent a major refit in the 2230s that grew into the Constitution development program. As a result, Baton Rouge-class ships such as the Republic (NCC-1371) were actually upgraded to full Constitution class configuration, while ships such as Endeavour (NCC-1695) was actually built to Constitution specs before the Constitution herself was even launched. While many early Baton Rouge class ships were retired with the class in 2250, many were upgraded similarly and continued service as Constitutions.
Bonaventure is often regarded as the first "Starship" with warp drive installed because she was refit to test various hull configurations and technologies developed for the Class One refit. After her phase as an engineering testbed, she was commissioned for active duty, only to be lost on her third mission in the Delta Triangle region. She was found in a pocket dimension by the U.S.S. Enterprise in early 2270, her crew having survived for years in the pocket dimension found there. The ship remained there when the Enterprise subsequently returned to normal space, her ultimate fate unknown, but it is presumed that she and the descendants of her crew live on today.
The Constitution represented a sweeping change in Starfleet design and fleet management policy that would ultimately set the trend of modern Federation starship design for the next 150 years. The early twenty-third century was marked by an unforeseen level of prosperity and optimism. The fleets of the various Federation member worlds were slowly being unified under the Starfleet banner. By 2230, a growing group within Starfleet was calling for a mass standardization of the fleet. Starfleet ships of that era were vastly varied. There were literally hundreds of different ships classes in service of varying age and size, many of them operated by UESPA, each producing as few as a dozen ships each, many designed for the same purpose, or, overlapping in mission profiles. Proponents of the so-called "Class One Program" argued that making hull and engine components standardized throughout the fleet would be more economically feasible, both in construction of new ships and in the repairs of existing ones. Thus was born the Constitution class.
The Constitution was derived from various existing ship designs as a standard to which all existing spaceworthy cruisers could be upgraded, with many design features derived from the groundbreaking Baton Rouge class. The Baton Rouge class, the most advanced ship in the fleet, was then undergoing a substantial upgrade program. At the time, the Constitution design was referred to simply as Starship Class One (with many of the ships' dedication plaques even referring to them as "Starship Class"), but modern Starfleet parlance insists the class now be referred to by the name of the first ship of the design launched. The elegance of the design lay in its unprecedented simplicity. The basic design called for a cylindrical secondary hull mounted to a streamlined saucer-shaped primary hull via a narrow interconnecting dorsal. Two warp nacelles were to be mounted to the secondary hull at a near 45 degree angle. Numerous other starship designs were derived from the basic components developed for the Constitution class, including frigates, scouts, and the highly controversial dreadnought program of the late 2250s.
Constitution class vessels as originally launched were 289 meters long, meters abeam, and meters tall. They were originally designed to carry a crew of approximately 200, but later developments in food synthesizer technology by 2260 allowed ships to be refit to carry crews of up to 450. The ships' warp drives were incredibly advanced, relying on a three-reactor intermix system that was for years the most advanced in the quadrant. They were rated as Warp Nine engines, but on several occasions demonstrated the ability to achieve speeds in excess of warp factor ten.
Most of the Block One Constituiion class ships commissioned were new builds. The first were U.S.S. Constitution, NCC-1700, and U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701, both launched in 2245. Following their launch, other ships were scheduled for upgrades to coincide with their scheduled maintenance cycles. Among the first ships to be upgraded were the U.S.S. Constellation, NCC-1017, formerly a Horizon-class cruiser originally launched in 2200 that had been purposed for warp field dynamics testing during research for the Constitution class, and U.S.S. Republic, NCC-1371, formerly a Baton Rouge class cruiser. As an historic oddity, several ships originally scheduled to be built as other classes, including the U.S.S. Endeavour NCC-1695, were actually upgraded to Constitution specs during their construction and launched before the completion of the prototype herself. The increased displacement of the 'new' ships mandated they no longer be referred to simply as cruisers, but rather heavy cruisers, and thus the Starfleet heavy cruiser was officially born. The Constitution class effectively became the face of the Federation throughout the latter part of the twenty-third century.
The U.S.S. Enterprise would go on to become the most distinguished member of her class, and her exploits under command of her third captain, James T. Kirk, are now legendary. However, nearly all of the ships built or refit to Constitution specs went on to distinguish themselves in the annals of history in their own way. Constitution class ships increased the area of known space by hundreds of parsecs. However, the road they paved was not a smooth one. Like the Daedalus class before them, high success was met with high loss. Nearly thirty percent of the Constitution class ships were lost in the line of duty, but few of these losses could be attributed to actual shortfalls in the proven design.
It was only the same era of change that led to their creation that would lead to their downfall. By 2270, officials in Starfleet Command (note the change in nomenclature) were calling for the creation of a true supership to combat the increasing threats of the Federation's neighbors, culminating in the creation of the Excelsior class. The Constitution class itself underwent one massive final refit to specifications pioneered by the redesign of the U.S.S. Enterprise in the 2270s, but by this time many ships in the class were nearly thirty years old or older. The Excelsior class became the new cornerstone of Starfleet in by the 2290s. A pathfinder Constitution class ship was constructed from existing hull components and new-build engine parts to test the compatibility of the revolutionary advances of the Excelsior development program to the Constitution design. (This ship would later be commissioned for active duty as the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-A.) However, the technology proved difficult to graft onto the aging Constitution class, and so their fate was sealed. By 2330, there was only one Constitution class ship left in active service: the U.S.S. Republic, which is currently the oldest commissioned ship in the fleet, a training cruiser attached to Starfleet Academy. She retains her configuration as launched in 2249 after her refit to Class One specs, with only minor upgrades in safety systems. The rest of the Constitutions were either scrapped or retired to secured Federation surplus depots in the event they were needed in the future. Such a need arose in 2369, when the U.S.S. Oriskany, NCC-1790, was rushed back into service to meet the Borg invasion at Wolf 359 and was ultimately lost in the line of duty. Several other moth-balled Constitutions were re-activated during the Dominion War for service within the Federation border, mostly seeing only light combat and serving support roles. All of these ships were retired again almost immediately after the cessation of hostilities, most of them scheduled to finally be scrapped, though two are being considered for restoration and addition to the Starfleet Museum collection, representing the 2255-2269 era and the 2295-2330 eras respectively.