The Galaxy-class explorer is one of the most important Starfleet designs of the 24th century, serving with great distinction both as an explorer and in combat roles during the Dominion War. They remain one of the largest and most sophisticated starship classes in the Alpha and Beta quadrants, even nearly forty years following their introduction and are a sought-after command.
Exploration and Science
Until the introduction of the Century class, the Galaxy was by far the most capable exploratory platform any power in the Alpha or Beta Quadrant had ever fielded, exceeding even its immediate successor, the Sovereign, in this role. Its range was unprecedented, its ability to operate for years unsupported while seeing not only to its crew’s physical needs but also their social impulses breathtaking. Its advanced sensor suite and huge load of replicable probes allowed it to survey dozens of star systems entirely on its own without a need to resupply, and to do so with previously unimagined depth and speed.
It is perhaps in its scientific capabilities that the Galaxy is most distinctive. Later ships, like the Sovereign and Luna, carry more advanced science equipment, but the raw amount of shipboard space the Galaxy devotes to scientific endeavor is still unmatched. The age of the individual spaceframes has had an impact on this as well – while each individual Galaxy-class ship launched with a large number of unassigned “science bays” containing fairly generally-equipped laboratories, each ship has since launch developed these bays into highly-specialized spaces, with each ship’s complement of established labs (and attendant expert crew) different from every other’s. The decades of service even the last Galaxy-class ships off the line have offered have given them all time to individualize their research capabilities, and more than any other class, not just the captain but the history of the ship itself is figured in when the Admiralty determines which Galaxy-class vessel to send on a mission.
Like the Nebula-class, the Galaxy-class has long bands of lateral sensor arrays on both the primary and secondary hulls. These bands have hundreds of attachment points for discrete sensor pallets, allowing them to carry both generalized, mission-specific, and single-use sensors, which makes them one of the most effective scanning platforms in Starfleet.
The Galaxy-class fleet has been responsible for some of the most important diplomatic missions conducted by the Federation during the latter half of the 24th century, with the Enterprise herself responsible for dozens of first contact missions during her 7-year mission in the 2360s and 2370s. They are equipped with extensive guest quarters, conference spaces, and recreational amenities to entertain dignitaries of any species. In addition, the large number of holodecks aboard further increases their ability to conduct diplomacy. Their diplomatic facilities have only been superseded by Odyssey-class, over 25 years after the introduction of the Galaxy-class.
In addition to the facilities which allow the ships themselves to host hundreds of diplomats and their aides at once, the Galaxy-class is also considered a sign of great respect from the planets that she visits given the prestige associated with the class. In addition, her significant armaments make her mere presence that the Federation considers a situation to be serious. This also makes her well-equipped to handle negotiations in unstable areas.
Galaxy-class captains tend to be well-versed in the art of diplomacy and are chosen for their seniority and because they are worthy of being trusted with commanding a vessel that is such a clear symbol of the Federation itself.
Following the traditional saucer-secondary hull design introduced as early as the Columbia-class, the Galaxy-class has easily recognizable lines with a massive 16-deck saucer section joined by a stout interconnecting dorsal to a wide engineering hull with two large warp nacelles. Even at a distance, her silhouette is an inspiration to the Federation’s allies and an ominous one to the Federation’s enemies.
Even over forty years following her introduction, the Galaxy-class is one of the most complex space vehicles in the galaxy, given that she was the first vessel designed to function for extended periods as two separate vehicles with her saucer-separation capability, meaning that both the primary and secondary hulls have sufficient power generation, life support, defensive, small craft, crew support, and scientific abilities to be truly independent. In addition, the ship regularly supports a complement of over a thousand, with hundreds of different scientific research projects going on simultaneously, all while embarking on years-long expeditions outside of Federation space. To maintain all of the systems required to make this happen, Galaxy-class ships have large and highly competent engineering teams, and serving on one of these ships is still a dream job for most chief engineers.
When she was launched, the Galaxy-class was the most powerful spaceborne computing platform in existence, with three massive computer cores and provisions for installing a fourth when necessary. These systems have seen gradual upgrades as the years have gone on, and most ships now operate with a combined isolinear-bioneural hybrid system installed to support shipwide holographic projections and other advances in technology.
The Galaxy-class has three large impulse engines, two in the saucer and one in the secondary hull, the larger engine in the secondary hull being the primary sublight engine, with the saucer engines held for reserve power and used during separated flight mode. The fusion reactors used to power these engines alone produce power than many smaller cruisers’ warp cores, as is necessary to propel a 42-deck starship at a quarter the speed of light.
The Class-7 warp drive debuted aboard the Galaxy-class and remains a marvel. The ship’s two large warp nacelles coupled with a large powerplant are capable of propelling the ship routinely to sprint speeds of Warp 9.6, thanks to improvements in computing and power regulation technology.
The vessel has three shuttle bays: two smaller bays in the ship’s neck section which house a half-dozen or so shuttles, and a larger bay under the bridge that can hold several dozen small craft in a vast hanger that takes up nearly the entirety of decks 4 and 5, with further hanger space beneath it on deck 6.
The Galaxy-class was the culmination of several avenues of design that led it to become the most powerful tactical platform in Starfleet service until the advent of the Sovereign-class. With sweeping Type-X phaser arrays on the saucer and numerous smaller arrays on the stardrive section, this class has full spherical phaser coverage. In addition, the two burst-fire torpedo launchers mounted one port and one starboard give it tremendous projectile weapon capability. The shielding is equally impressive; with little modification, the Enterprise-D was able to survive for extended periods in the corona of a star with an adaptation to her shield generators to produce metaphasic shields. The ship’s tactical ability is enhanced by her large warp core, which provides ample power for sustained engagements.
A weakness of this class, as proven by the destruction of the USS Odyssey is the relatively narrow neck, which provides a weak point for ramming attacks, which led to structural reinforcement in later models of this class and its near-elimination in later classes of large explorer.
In the 2380s, the Galaxy-class was systematically refitted with Type-XII phaser arrays, including the standardization of the additional nacelle phaser arrays featured on the USS Venture. In addition, these vessels routinely mount quantum torpedoes, which make them a deadly opponent even in the 2390s.
The Galaxy-class is a comfortable, modern ship with all of the amenities one would expect from a ship of her size and age. With substantial recreational facilities and holodecks, there’s always something to do when off duty aboard a ship of this class. While an older vessel, it is still considered a prestigious assignment. It is especially popular among scientific personnel, as it offers a larger science department than even dedicated science vessels. Crews can expect to be together for years on long-range exploration missions, which leads to a strong sense of camaraderie for those on board.
Though they have a standard crew of 1,000, this varies wildly between different ships. For example, a Galaxy-class kept close to home on defensive missions might only have 750, but a ship fully fitted out for a long-range mission might have up to 2,000 crewmembers aboard. These variations between individual ships also mean that the kinds of captains assigned to this class vary, ranging from seasoned explorers to more tactically-qualified captains.
While they were in production for several decades, there are only a few dozen Galaxy-class ships in service, which makes each one of them have a unique and storied reputation. They are a sought-after posting and most Starfleet officers would feel very proud to serve on one.
Though the venerable Miranda and Excelsior classes of starships had been serving Starfleet’s needs well, and the Ambassador class has provided Starfleet with an incredible long-range exploratory platform in the 2330’s, fleet modernization was on the admiralty’s mind by the early 2340’s. Based on innovations made through the Ambassador project, the Advanced Starship Design Bureau proposed several new designs to take Starfleet into the second half of the 24th Century. Four of these designs (the Cheyenne, Springfield, Challenger, and New Orleans) were slated to begin construction in the 2340’s, to serve as test-beds of the technologies that would be showcased in the Nebula and Galaxy-class explorers to be constructed in the 2350’s, and they would eventually become companion vessels to their larger cousins.
The Galaxy design was authorized in 2343, along with the Nebula design, and the design process continued in tandem until both designs were completed in 2350. The Galaxy employed the traditional arrangement of a saucer module with the living quarters and scientific facilities, with the warp engines and other engineering systems contained in a secondary hull, albeit on a much larger scale than had previously been used by Starfleet vessels. The Galaxy would also incorporate the ability to separate and re-attach its saucer module, to allow non-combatants to be evacuated while the rest of the ship went into combat.
Along with the Nebula-class, the Galaxy represents the largest mobile spaceborne scientific platform for the Federation. While smaller vessels are often deployed on scientific missions on a case-by-case basis with a specific project mandate, these large explorers (like the Ambassador before them) have large scientific departments that run dozens of projects at once, at the behest of various Federation research institutions. At any given time, these vessels can be host to between dozens and hundreds of Starfleet and civilian specialists and researchers working on various projects, in addition to their already-large scientific staff.
Construction on the USS Galaxy began in mid-2350 at the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, along with USS Enterprise and USS Yamato. A further 3 units were authorized, for an initial production run of 6, along with six space-frames to be completed and stored in secure locations across the Federation. Construction completed in 2356 on Galaxy, with the other two units following closely behind her. Shakedown operations ran successfully through 2358, with the class fully-commissioned and in regular service starting in the spring of 2359. By 2360, all 6 units had been completed. They were incredibly popular with their crews, and served with distinction in many capacities. Disaster struck in 2365, when the Yamato was destroyed by a warp core breach. It was later ruled that this was due to an Iconian computer virus, but it was still devastating to lose such a massive resource investment, along with her entire crew of 1,120 Starfleet officers and Federation civilians.
In 2367, the Enterprise was instrumental in stopping the Borg invasion of Earth, which followed the Battle of Wolf 359. Though no other Galaxy-class ships were involved in the conflict, because they were all outside of Federation space on exploratory missions, several Nebula-class ships were lost at the battle, and it was clear that only Captain Picard’s link to the collective was able to stop them, and that the Federation fleet was not ready to deal with the Borg threat. With investigations begun into enhancing the class’s tactical abilities, Starfleet authorized the six additional spaceframes that had been built to be fitted out as full starships. To improve phaser coverage, a refit was designed to install arrays and the accompanying power equipment to the ventral surface of the warp nacelles, bringing the total up to 14. Due to exploration schedules, this was not completed for several years.
Three years later, only the Trinculo and Magellan had been completed, when a second member of the class was destroyed – the USS Odyssey. She was followed two years later by the USS Enterprise. In both instances, the ships were destroyed by combat, but it was only the Odyssey that had demonstrated a specific tactical weakness. Starfleet immediately began reinforcing the ship’s neck section with ablative armor. An additional two units were ordered to replace Odyssey and Enterprise.
At the start of the Dominion War, there were 5 Galaxy-class ships in the fleet. While the Enterprise and Odyssey had been ambushed in combat, during open war the rest of the class was prepared. Wherever they were deployed, they were instrumental in securing assets for the Alliance, with their omnidirectional phaser coverage and advanced photon torpedo launchers. The additional four spaceframes were completed quickly, without scientific systems or many of the crew support facilities like holodecks, serving not as explorers but as battleships. Additional units were ordered, but the scales were too large for more than another two to be finished before the end of the war. These eleven ships served as flagships and the heavy firepower of a number of Federation fleets.
This construction program was heavily-classified, and they were kept in reserve for the beginning of the war. Starfleet Intelligence fed false information to the Cardassians that the ships were just beginning construction at a Federation shipyard near Trill space, well after they were actually finished. The Cardassians sent a fleet to the system, which had to fight through the Federation’s defensive lines, which were purposefully weakened. When it appeared that there were indeed four partially-completed Galaxy-class ships in orbit, they powered up, and the original five emerged from above the planet’s magnetic poles, along with the entirety of the Twelfth Fleet from the system’s heliopause. The result was the complete eradication of over 2,000 Cardassian ships, unprepared to face fully-armed battleships.
Throughout the war, the class served with distinction, with zero losses. After the war, the members of the class that were fitted only with tactical systems were filled out and assigned to exploratory missions, with Starfleet renewing the order to continue production at a rate of two ships per year, to complement the new Sovereign-class ships that were also being built. While the Galaxy-class could not yet be trumped in exploratory capability, the Sovereign-class was more explicitly designed for combat. Construction on this class completed in 2383, with resources being diverted to construction of the Romulan resettlement fleet and the newer Century-class explorer.
In 2388, upgrades were designed for the now 36 Galaxy-class ships, based on the Nebula-class upgrades, which included upgrades to bioneural computer systems, full-ship holographic projectors, and enhanced tactical systems, including Type-XII phaser arrays. Upgrades were scheduled to be completed for the class by the end of 2392. With these new upgrades, the Galaxy remains Starfleet’s premier all-rounder explorer, though she has been supplanted in diplomatic, tactical, and scientific abilities by the Odyssey, Sovereign, and Century-class ships that derived from her as the Federation moves into the 25th century.
- The Galaxy-class is the best all-round explorer, even though her younger children outshine her in their own specific areas. The Sovereign is the superior tactical platform, the Century is best for science and exploration, and the Odyssey is a flagship and diplomatic platform, while the Galaxy can do any of these things well.
- Galaxy-class ships are sought-after postings even in 2399, especially for their captains. The waiting list to get on one of these legendary ships is long.
- Galaxy-class ships have a go anywhere, do anything design ethic that makes them suitable for games of all sorts, ranging from exploring totally alone to heading up a task group.