Representing a high degree of refinement of a number of systems first introduced in the 2370s, the Century-class is a fast, efficient successor to the Galaxy-class explorer that she has supplanted. Compared to her cousins the Sovereign and the Odyssey, the Century is the smallest of the three modern explorer classes being built by Starfleet, in terms of both size and crew complement, but is the one most closely-aligned with Starfleet’s core exploration directive. They are a rare sight within the Federation, as they are almost always sent on long-duration exploration missions on the fringes of known space.
Science and Exploration
Other than a fully-staffed Olympic-class research vessel, the Century is Starfleet’s most advanced scientific platform currently in service. Like the Galaxy before her, the Century has large amounts of mission-configurable space that can be adapted for whatever scientific mission she has been tasked with. In addition, there are specialized scientific labs for nearly every discipline and the capacity to embark up to 200 visiting scientists to supplement the ship’s own crew. With a smaller crew than other ships of her size, more space is given over to labs and scientific equipment than is possible on other designs.
Due to her high sustainable top speed, the Century is adept at missions that take her well beyond Federation space and is rated for up to seven years of independent operations when fully-supplied, while her cousins are only rated for five-year missions. This improvement in endurance is possible because of her much smaller crew and much lower maintenance requirements, compared to the Sovereign and Odyssey.
Like the other explorers, the Century is a capable diplomatic platform. Her facilities have been optimized for first contact scenarios, as she is often sent far from Federation space. While the Odyssey is the superior overall diplomatic platform, being paid a visit by a Century-class ship would be considered a great honor by most races. There is a meeting hall, with several sets of diplomatic offices for use by Federation or alien diplomats, along with guest quarters that can be configured to nearly any atmospheric needs of visitors.
Nearly every system in use aboard the Century is a proven technology that has been refined first on another class of ship in service, with the goal of creating a starship that could comfortably explore outside of Federation space with minimal maintenance and support needs. These systems include the advanced Type-9 warp drive and bioneural computers pioneered aboard the Intrepid-class, tactical systems taken from the Sovereign-class, and shipwide holographic projectors and advanced automation protocols from the Prometheus-class. The result of combining these technologies into a single spaceframe was a highly-advanced vessel that suffered hardly any teething problems during construction or early space trials, as the kinks had all been worked out on earlier vessels.
Compared to other ships of her size, the Century requires a comparatively small engineering staff, as she was designed specifically to minimize maintenance and maximize automation. The Type-9 warp drive has been tuned to take advantage of the size increase from the Intrepid to allow for a larger reaction chamber, and thus a greater overall power output, which gives her an impressive top speed of Warp 9.99, which she can sustain for 72 hours.
The ship has three shuttle bays, two in the saucer section and one on the stern, with an impressive complement of small craft designed to supplement the ship’s exploration capabilities, with three runabouts and eighteen shuttles.
Tactical systems on the Century are inspired heavily from the earlier Sovereign-class, but with an emphasis on reliability and miniaturization. All-around defensive coverage is provided by the proven Type-XII phaser arrays covering every arc, and four torpedo launchers on both the forward and aft arcs. The shields have been modeled after the Sovereign as well, and represent the latest version of the regenerative shield system. This makes the Century a major threat to nearly any other spacecraft, though her phasers have been tuned to a lower overall output than the Sovereign and the Odyssey has overall higher shield power.
The Century is less powerful than the Sovereign but still managed to serve as a deterrent in her own right; a visit from a ship of this class is a signal that Starfleet is willing to commit an advanced tactical asset to put out a brushfire. With that being said, Century-class ships are not routinely assigned to strictly tactical missions, as their strengths are in exploration not in combat.
Century-class ships have crews of just 500, compared to 750 aboard the Sovereign and 2,500 aboard the Odyssey, so serving aboard one is a much different experience than on the other two modern explorers. The long waiting list to serve aboard a Century-class ship is because they are being assigned to some of the most exciting exploratory missions in Starfleet, and the officers that serve aboard her tend to be highly-collegial and interested in science.
Accommodation standards are approximately equal to the much smaller Intrepid-class, with crewman sharing quarters with three other people, ensigns and chiefs sharing with one other person, and officers lieutenant and above having their own quarters. This makes them comfortable but not luxurious, and the reason for this is that the space on this long-range ship is otherwise devoted to the life support systems that give her that high endurance and the scientific systems she is taking to the frontier. Eight holodecks and a dozen smaller holosuites are supplemented by an arboretum, numerous lounges along the leading edge of the saucer, a gymnasium, and a theater provide the crew with recreational opportunities.
Medical facilities aboard the Century are approximately equal to the Sovereign, with a large sickbay complex in the primary hull and a secondary facility near Main Engineering. Like other ships of her size, she is capable of using her holographic projectors and replicators to reconfigure guest quarters and cargo bays into medical facilities for emergencies, but the Odyssey-class is the superior humanitarian platform.
Construction on the USS Century began construction in mid-2377 with the keel laid down at Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards. Construction of the vessel was slow and steady allowing room for trial and error to install and properly configure all the automated systems associated with her design. Since no Starfleet vessel beforehand was geared towards such high automation, and many of the ship’s vital systems were tied into this method, precision was necessary to ensure the ship functioned without a critical error after launch.
What would have been a standard production timeline for a prototype of the Century’s nature was significantly extended, due to needing to test and re-test these systems before being brought fully online. In late 2378, the ship’s computer came online, and in a matter of months had become self-aware. With the assistance of the automation protocols in place, the rest of the construction and outfitting continued unabated. The high level of automation cut an estimated six months off the outfitting and construction process.
In mid-2379, the class’ namesake and prototype had finished construction and outfitting. The plaque was put in the place of honor, and a crew was selected for the shakedown cruise. With such lofty goals as had been put in place for this new class, the criterion for the cruise were extensive. In addition, the Admiralty wanted to ensure beyond a shadow of a doubt that the automation systems installed wouldn’t cause a cascade system-wide failure.
The Century performed admirably, and exceeded all of the Admiralty’s expectations, though the full shakedown of the prototype took the better part of two years. In 2382, the USS Century was officially commissioned, and another Century class vessel, the USS Constitution, was put into production. Eventually, by 2385, Starfleet Command was satisfied with the overall performance, automation and computer systems of their two Century-class vessels and ordered a batch of six starships to begin production in 2386 with others to follow.
Full-scale production of the Century-class called an end to production of the Galaxy-class design, with the last one leaving McKinley Station in 2385. With the Sovereign-class and Odyssey-class ships also in production as more specialized vessels, production was set at a ratio of three Century-class ships to two Sovereign-class ships to one Odyssey-class ship in the 2390s, setting the Century up to be the leading explorer for the 25th Century.