Hello and welcome to Truth or Myth, in today’s episode we take a look at the Constitution class and her history and try to understand why this ship class was one of the most revolutionary and brilliant designs of her time. Please note, this video will not include the Star Trek Discovery redesigned version of the Constitution Class or the Constitution class of The JJ Abrams Star Trek films, as future episodes will deal with those Version. So with that, let us begin…
The most Iconic design in both Trek fandom and Starfleet History, the Constitution Class was the Jewel of Starfleet’s crown.
Launched in the early 2240s, the Constitution Class would become the backbone of Starfleet’s Space Fleet until the end of the 23rd century.
Having multiple refits and upgrades during those 60 years, the basic external arranges would always stay the same and become the basis for a lot of future starship designs.
Though not canon, it’s reasonable to assume that up to date the Constitution class was launched, Starfleet vessels were primarily all variants on saucer designs. The NX Class as well as subsequent classes seen participating a century later in the Battle of The Binary Stars all show this heavy saucer design influence, that is until the Constitution Class which would see a fully functional and worthwhile addition of a large secondary hull.
The Original Constitution Class measured 289 meters long with a width of 127 meters and contained 21 decks numbered from the top of the ship, which housed the Main Bridge, to the bottom of the ship which housed the ships Engineering Section, Cargo Bays, Shuttlebay and support systems.
It was staffed with approximately 430 crew members by the late 2260s when the original class was phased out in favour of the newly refit Constitution class design.
Having fully incorporated the new Duotronic Computer Control Systems designed by Dr Richard Daystrom, the main bridge would feature almost a full 360 degrees of starship consoles. Sunken down slightly lower on the deck in the centre of the Bridge where the helm and navigational consoles. Though navigating the ship through the cosmos was the primary responsibility of these consoles, during combat situations it was not unusual to see these consoles controlling both offensive and defensive systems.
In the very centre of this area, on a raised platform, was the Captain Chair. With the ability to swivel 360 degrees, this chair offered the Captain an unobstructed view of any station on the bridge.
Other stations on the Bridge included Communications, Engineering, Weapons Control, Gravity Control, Damage Control, Environmental Engineering, Internal Security and Science and Library Computer Access.
Directly forward of the captain’s chair was mounted the main view screen which could display anything from tactical and library computer information, to communications signals from alien species.
Originally access to the bridge was gained by only one turbolift, this was until the late 2260s when a second turbolift would be added and would remain part of the design through subsequent refits.
An Axillary Control area or secondary bridge also existed in the saucer section. This bridge was used in the event that the main bridge was massively damaged or uninhabitable and could assume full control over the ship.
The Constitution Class had a standard cruising speed of Warp factor 6 with a maximum emergency speed of warp factor 8, making this class one of the fastest classes in Starfleet. Though the ship attained speeds of over warp factor 14, these were all done by exterior means and at great danger to ship itself.
The Original Constitution Class also contained one of the last horizontal warp cores designed by Starfleet. Beginning from under Main Engineering, Access to the dilithium crystals could be made from dome consoles on the Engineering deck itself.
The impulse engine design was also the most advanced for her time and would change very little over the next century.
The Constitution Class also contained a new weaponry development, phaser banks. Up to this point, all Starfleet vessels were equipped with phased pulse canons, But the Constitution class was able to sustain a beam in both energy and intensity, to make it a much more destructive weapon in its day.
Ship-mounted phaser banks had a range of approximately 90000 kilometres and like hand phasers, could be adjusted from light stun to full destructive power.
In the original configuration, the forward phaser emitters were located on the underside of the saucer section in the forward, port and starboard positions, while the aft phaser emitters were located above the Shuttlebay on the secondary hull.
A Forward Photon Torpedo launcher was also installed on the lower section of the saucer section, while an aft launcher was installed on the lower end of the secondary hull.
In concert, these new weapon systems could destroy the entire surface of the planet.
The Constitution Class starship had a powerful new deflector shield grid system. These were referred to as Shields numbered 1 thru 4.
In standard configuration the shield system was powered by the impulse reactors, leaving warp power for manoeuvring of the ship itself, but with warp power diverted to the shields, the Constitution Class could withstand much more of a beating than any starship that had come before her.
Though rarely used, the Constitution Class also had the ability to separate the Saucer Section from the rest of the ship, allowing that section to become a large escape pod ferrying the crew to safety. If both sections of the ship could be recovered then a starbase would be needed to recombine the 2 sections. This system would later become a standard feature on the Galaxy class of starships as a defensive and offensive system over 100 years later.
Like most ships of the time, the Constitution Class was equipped with standard and cargo transporters. These transporters were primarily used for personal and away mission to planets as a speedy alternative to the shuttlecrafts.
The standard configuration of The Constitution Class carried a complement of 4 main shuttlecraft as well as various other smaller crafts which were usually charged with repair tasks to the outer hull of the ship.
One downside of the Original Constitution Class shuttlebay was that it didn’t include the new forcefield technology which allowed the shuttlebay doors to be opened without decompression of the entire bay. Though this technology would be included when the class received it’s major refit and redesign in the early 2270s.
Sickbay was located on deck 6 in the safest area of the saucer section, the central area. This area contained medical labs and recovery areas and also had protective bulkheads that could cut the entire area off from the rest of the ship, while a damaged and beaten starship waited for rescue from other vessels.
Also becuase the class was designed for extended deep space exploration, the Constitution class housed the most extensive recreational facilities of her day. There were at least 6 recreation rooms were the crew could congregate when not on duty and a holographic rec area which was the predecessor to the holodeck.
There was also a Gymnasium for the crew to keep physically fit, an arboretum where people could enjoy various plant life from all over the Federation, a bowling alley, a theatre and a non-denominational chapel where shipboard functions such as weddings could take place.
Originally there were only 12 Ships of the class constructed. And the class, though long-lived, saw half its ships destroyed or badly damaged by the latter half of the 2260s. This would catapult Starfleet into a complete redesign and refit of the first vessel of the class to return from its 5-year mission intact, the USS Enterprise. And Starfleet would begin to build that refit Constitution Class unrestrictedly to make it the backbone of its fleet. And in fact, the class would serve that position until the end of the century when the class would begin to be phased out for the much newer and more powerful Excelsior Class. Even by the time of the Borg attack at wolf 359 in 2366, there were still a few Constitution Class Refits in Service.
When looking at previous Starfleet Ships designs of the time, it’s easy to see why the Constitution Class captured hearts and minds of so many people in the Federation. It was a beautiful design with clean lines that made her appear even more powerful then she was.
Add to that the advancement of her internal systems and you have a force to be reckoned with throughout the Federation.
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Watch episode 52