USS Excelsior NX-2000 might have been a forgotten one-off experimental vessel.
It was originally intended to be used for STARFLEET’s transwarp propulsion experiments, and if that Great Experiment had failed, the prototype might have been abandoned as worthless. Instead, it spawned one of the most enduring and useful classes of starships in STARFLEET history. What made it so successful?
The Excelsior project had two original goals:
-Development of a starship suitable for testing proposed new transwarp propulsion systems.
-Development of a starship suitable to replace the highly successful but aging Constitution class starships then in service.
The first goal was technically challenging, but gave designers a clear focus, and the whole starship was built with dangerously high warp speeds in mind. Transwarp may have been a failed experiment, but all of the advanced and overly-redundant support systems already in place left the Excelsior class unusually well equipped to make the most of increasingly powerful conventional warp drives for decades to come. By over-compensating for extreme problems the ship never really had to face, they inadvertently ended up designing a far superior vessel than they might otherwise have settled for.
The second goal was far broader in scope. “STARFLEET’s exploration mission encompasses many different situations and activities, including routine scientific surveys, deep space exploration, diplomatic and trade missions, colony support, medical and emergency relief, engineering testing, and some combat, often with combinations of multiple of those happening together at the same time. Usually these tasks are performed by one ship all alone, without any support vessels.”
For 35 years before the NX-2000 was launched, this kaleidoscope role had largely fallen on the smaller, but very accomplished Constitution class starships (not least of which was the original USS Enterprise NCC-1701). This gave the Excelsior large shoes to fill.
Excelsior’s designers learned well from the Constitution crews’ decades of experiences, keeping the best aspects and compensating for shortcomings. The result was a starship that was not just technically larger and more powerful, but also more comfortable, easier to operate, and more adaptable to new situations and new missions.
This design was so thoroughly perfected that the basic Excelsior design (with occasional refits and overhauls) has seen a full century of STARFLEET service. Some individual hulls of this class have survived for decades, and still continue to operate alongside the far more advanced Galaxy, Sovereign and Luna class explorers. The Excelsior class is probably the only class to have operated together with every USS Enterprise in STARFLEET, from the original NCC-1701 through to the latest NCC-1701-E. And of course, one of those, USS Enterprise NCC-1701-B was itself an Excelsior, reflecting the high esteem given to the class.
USS Stargazer NCC-7991 is in many ways typical of the Excelsior class, with a career spanning both the 23rd and 24th centuries, albeit with an unusually non-linear course through time. Stargazer was the first vessel of the class to be rebuilt from the original hull shape into the wider hull shape of the Enterprise-B. (The Enterprise itself was built with its design from the start.)
Contributed by CAPT. C Sham