The Columbia Class has the primary/secondary hull arrangement that would eventually become a hallmark of Starfleet ship design. These ships have four impulses engines and two warp nacelles. These ships are also equiped with twin deflector dishes a design feature that would not be seen again until 2370 and the launch of the USS Intrepid.
The weapons systems for the Columbia Class are located within the primary hull. Six of the twelve phase cannons are housed within storage bays built into the dorsal surface of the hull and the remaining six located within storage bays built into the ventral surface of the primary hull. The six torpedo launchers are located within the ventral section of the primary hull. Four of the six launchers cover the forward firing arc and the remaining two launchers cover the aft firing arc. To protect the ship from the hazards that will be encountered by the ship’s of the Columbia Class these ships are equipped with an a Hull Polarization System.
The ship’s impulse engines are located within the primary hull. The main impulse engines are housed at the aft most point of the primary hull’s catamaran sections. The ship’s secondary impulse engines are located along the aft edge of the primary hull outboard of the contention point between the main body of the primary hull and the catamarans.Just forward and outboard of the primary impulse engines is the warp pylon connect points, from these points the the warp pylons extend at an angle upward to hold the nacelles above the ship’s hull so that they flank the bridge. at the same location were the warp pylons connect to the catamarans a secondary pylon extends downward to the ship’s secondary hull. These secondary pylons provide structural support between the catamarans and the secondary hull and provided a direct route between the warp core located in the secondary hull and the warp nacelles.
The sensor systems are housed in three major groups. The long range senors are housed within the ship’s secondary hull just behind the secondary deflector dish. The sensors in this group are responsible for ship navigation and early object detection and study. The second grouping of sensor systems are the short range sensors and are housed being the secondary deflector dish in the ships primary hull. These sensors are responsible for in system object detection and study. The third sensor grouping is the planetary sensor group and this group is housed within the planetary sensor dome located at the ventral most point of the primary hull. The sensor systems of this group is responsible for study and mapping of a planets surface along with tracking away teams while they are planet side.
Columbia Class ships are equipped with to shuttle bays located at the aft most point of the primary hull between the two catamarans. These bays hold each 2 shuttles and an inspection pod. The Shuttle bays each have three exit points. These points are the main doors that face aft, the EVA hatches just in board of the main doors. The third exit point is the droop doors located in the ventral surface of the hull that are the main exit point for the inspection pods.
In 2152 as system operation data came back from the Enterprise NX-01 two proposals were put before Starfleet command. One was for systems upgrades for the Columbia NX-02 that was currently under construction and all NX Class ships after that and the second was more extensive and would have added a secondary hull to the ship and moved the majority of the engineering systems to this new hull. The first proposal was accepted and the extensive refit was rejected.
Although it was rejected the second proposal did have it’s supporters within Starfleet and some of the designers of the NX Class. When in 2158 the Columbia was heavily damaged while engaging Romulan forces near the Altair System the supporters of the major refit proposal pressured Starfleet Command to sign off on a refit of the Columbia. By the time the Columbia had returned to Earth the decision had been made to allow the refit. The refit of the Columbia would take two years meaning the Columbia did not leave dry dock until 2160 and testing of the updated systems saw the Columbia missing the final engagements of the war. It would not be until mid 2161 that the Columbia would be returned to active duty.
Two months after the Columbia returned to active duty the United Federation of Planets was formed and the Columbia and the other NX Class ships were folded into the New Federation’s Starfleet. The Columbia was reclassified by the new Starfleet as the Columbia Class due to the extensive changes made to the ship. The decision was made to keep the NX Class in operation and construct more ships of the Columbia Class. By 2163 the first of the newly constructed Columbia Class ships had started to enter service.
Ships of the Columbia Class carried out mission through out Federation Space. These ships proved to be able to carry out a wide variety of missions and were instrumental in securing and exploring the sectors of space controlled by the newly formed Federation. By the 2200’s the Columbia class was showing its age and in 2208 the decision was made to decommission the Columbia Class as new ships were put into service. This process took several years and it was not until 2215 that the final Columbia Class was decommissioned.