Notes : The Constellation class was fielded during the 2280's as a modern counterpart to the Constitution class then in service. Like the Constitutions, the Constellation requirement issued in 2272 called for a vessel capable of long-duration exploratory, scientific and diplomatic missions. The new ship was to be able to perform this role over the longer ranges called for now that the Federation had acquired new members beyond its previous borders. In addition, the Constellations combat capability was to put it ahead of any current or projected vessel in the Romulan and Klingon Empires.
The Constellations configuration marked a substantial change in Starfleet design practice of the time. During this era Starfleet had experienced significant problems generating and controlling the large scale structural integrity fields required for heavy cruiser class ships. The solution adopted was to build smaller vessels within one single hull unit, while larger vessels required two hull units fitted with independent SIF's; the Constitution class is a classic example of this philosophy.
With the Constellation it was thought that SIF technology had advanced to the point where a Heavy Cruiser class could be fielded within a single hull. This would allow much duplication to be avoided, freeing up space for extra equipment and improving the efficiency of the design. In addition to their unusual hulls, the Constellations employed four warp nacelles instead of the usual two - the first Federation starship ever to try this variation. It was thought that this would give the Constellation class a significant increase in speed and maneuverability across the warp flight envelope and improve the fuel efficiency at medium cruise speeds by some 15%.
In retrospect it can be seen that the Constellation designers attempted to accomplish too much in one step, a problem not helped by an unusually rushed design process which virtually guaranteed that faults would be experienced in service. Severe problems were encountered with the development of the new warp core and several vessels experienced a variety of failures with this system - the most notable being the USS Algeron which had to eject its warp core on three separate occasions because of emergencies.
After a great deal of time and effort working on this problem it was decided that the warp cores of the Constellation class were simply not up to the job of producing the power required. Starfleet was denied the resources required to produce a new design and refit the fleet, so instead a "stopgap" option was chosen - the power output of these ships was restricted by limiter software in the engineering systems.
Unfortunately while it solved the near-constant emergencies, this measure also robbed the Constellation class of some of their most important advances. They were now seriously under powered for their size, a factor which adversely affected almost every aspect of their operation. Despite this Starfleet was committed to the production of these ships on a large scale. This went ahead as scheduled, and the Constellation class became the mainstay of the fleet.
The USS Hathaway. This ship was used in a war games exercise where it fought a mock battle with the USS Enterprise-D. The results were inconclusive due to interference from a Ferengi vessel.
Over the years many attempts were made to rectify the problems with the Constellation class, and eventually some success was achieved. Between 2300 and 2310 six units received a new updated warp core which brought them close to their original designed power output. Other units of the fleet received new control software which allowed their power to be safely boosted by some 15% on average. However, by this time the class was some twenty years old and had fallen well behind the leading edge of technology. It was decided that an extensive refit of the Constellations would not be an efficient use of resources, and so these ships were forced to soldier on with their problems. With the advent of newer designs in the 2330's some of these vessels were retired altogether, while others were assigned border patrol duties.
The Constellations have had a generally undistinguished career, with one notable exception being the USS Stargazer. The first vessel commanded by Captain Jean Luc Picard, the USS Stargazer was the first vessel in Starfleet to perform the "Picard Maneuver" which it used to destroy an attacking craft now known to be a Ferengi Marauder. The USS Stargazer was heavily damaged in the engagement and was abandoned and believed destroyed. In 2364 the ship was recovered and now resides in the Fleet Museum. A few Constellation class vessels remain in service; as is often the case with past-their-prime designs the ships are now used for general support duties.
Last updated : 25th April 1998. This page is Copyright Graham Kennedy 1998. Star Trek et al is Copyright Paramount Pictures 1996/97. No Copyright infringement is intended and this page is for personal use only. All of the above classes of star ships and all of the named ships are copyright Paramount 1996/97.
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