Star Trek: Nautilus
Ambassador Class Development History
The Undiscovered Country
In 2293, the Khitomer Accords paved the way for many sweeping changes in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. For Federation Starship design this new era of relative peace meant it was possible for designers and engineers to focus on new technologies and experimental designs rather than the mass production of warships. The focus of these designs was on exploration and increased mission time rather than warfare. Over the next ten years the Advanced Starship Design Bureau reexamined and refined every aspect of starship design.
Not everyone at Starfleet was united in this new vision of starship design. Admiral Rickhardt of the 8th tactical fleet pressured the Advanced Starship Design Bureau to develop Federation cloaking technology that could be adapted for the Excelsior Spaceframe. By 2311 seven such Excelsiors were outfitted and were running covert missions out of Starbase 23. These covert missions culminated in the Tomed Incident leading to the signing of the Treaty of Algeron effectively ending the Federation’s foray into cloaking technology. The treaty also gave greater weight to the new role of Starfleet. With an era of peace still growing with Klingons and the retreat of Romulan Star Empire from the neutral zone, Starfleet could focus whole heartedly on Space Exploration.
Shortly after the Treaty of Algeron was signed, Starfleet united under the idea of a new advanced class of starship that would incorporate the many advances in technology and design into one platform. Several design aspects of the new class made the space frame unique. Among these was the increased internal cargo, crew and fuel capacity combined with an increased lift capability that gave the new class not only great size, but an endurance that rivaled the Excelsior Class and crew amenities allowing for much longer on station and patrol times, meaning more of the new class of starships could remain on patrol longer and with less crew fatigue. In addition, the development of the Phaser Array, which replaced the traditional Phaser Turret found on previous hull types such as the Excelsior and Miranda class hulls, were incorporated into the new class design. The arrays allowed for quicker recharge times and the ability to fire at multiple targets out of one array, rather than targeting turrets individually. The new class of ship would be over 1,000,000 tons larger than the Excelsior class and larger in every dimension. Nearly every system on the new ship class was unique to the class. By 2318 the new class of starship began test flights in the Alpha Quadrant.
That same year the Klingon Empire scanned one of these test flights and immediately became concerned about the Federation developing an advanced warship. To ease these tensions the Advanced Starship Design Bureau invited a Klingon delegation to tour the facility and learn more about this new class. To further ease tensions the new class of starship was dubbed an “exploration cruiser” and given the name “Ambassador.” Despite these efforts, or perhaps because of them The Klingon Empire started its own advanced starship design program later that year.
Fleet of Innovation
The Ambassador Class was the most advanced starship known to exist. The Excelsior Class seemed old-fashioned and limited next to it. Yet the early ships of the line were fraught with problems; the chiefest of which being poor power allocution and poor high warp speed sustainability. Some claimed the ship was too advanced, its warp core struggling to output the power needed for all of its systems. Other claimed that the various systems were poorly integrated, each designed separately in a vacuum and then thrown into one big ship. Still others said the Ambassador was just plain too big. The Advanced Starship Design Bureau worked tirelessly to find solutions to the perceived problems, recalling the growing fleet for minor refits and upgrades frequently. Much of the goal of “autonomous deep space exploration” was lost in the early years of Ambassador as so many return trips to starbase, or worse yet Utopia Planitia in sector 001 for refit were necessary.
In 2326 Dr. Charles Noonien Shaw joined the systems integration team at the Advanced Starship Design Bureau. Dr. Shaw saw the “Ambassador problem” as not a problem at all but a great opportunity for further innovation. Dr. Shaw envisioned each Ambassador to have its own specialty by design. Instead of creating a fleet of starships which could do everything, each ship would be outfitted for a specific role. In this way each of the innovations could be showcased on different ships. By the end of 2328 the first of Dr. Shaw’s ships, the U.S.S. Yamaguchi, was launched. The Yamaguchi’s featured systems geared towards defense providing longer sustained phaser fire, stronger deflector shields, and pattern fire torpedo launchers, all powered by a new warp drive system that sacrificed high warp speeds for sustained renewable power. Starfleet was impressed with Dr. Shaw’s work and encouraged him to develop a high speed variant of the Ambassador. In 2330 when the U.S.S. Aurora recorded sustained speed of warp 9.3, Dr. Shaw was made head of the system’s integration team.
Dr. Shaw continued to develop variant systems configurations for the Ambassador including a deep space exploration variant, a diplomatic and humanitarian variant, and even the new flagship of the Federation, the U.S.S. Enterprise-C. The project he was most passionate about however was integrating a harmonic negative field generator of his own design into the Ambassador-Class warp drive. This generator could in theory mask the ship’s warp signature and ion trail making in extremely difficult to detect at long range. Dr. Shaw envisioned a ship where every system could be engaged for low EM operations making the ship practically invisible to all forms of non-visual detection. After Dr. Shaw sent several proposals to the director of the Advanced Starship Design Bureau and Starfleet command, it was finally determined that the low detection variant was not in violation of the treaty of Algeron and “Project Nautilus” was green lit.
Dr. Shaw assembled an elite team of scientists and engineers for Project Nautilus. The design called for a reduction in crew capacity and transporters as well as the elimination of nearly 50% of all standby and emergency systems. Along with the design goal of low detection, Admiral Briggs specified an autonomous operation goal for the Project Nautilus. The deuterium tank was increased in size by 50% and antimatter containment and generation systems were also increased by 75%. Dr. Shaw’s harmonic negative field generator was incorporated into the LF-17U warp drive successfully. The Project Nautilus team work tirelessly to integrate all of the Ambassadors’ systems to run on an “ultra-quiet” or “ghost” mode.
Much of the details of the construction of the U.S.S. Nautilus and her sister ship the [[U.S.S. Argo]] are classified. Even Admiral Briggs whom Stafleet Command selected to oversee the development of Project Nautilus was kept out of the loop. Dr. Shaw gave daily reports to the Advanced Starship Design Bureau and Starfleet Command, but only he and his design team were allowed aboard the Argo and the Nautilus during the final and crucial systems integration process. Dr. Shaw practically sequestered the Project Nautilus team, all of them literally living on Nautilus and Argo for weeks, not allowed to see their families or send any communications off the ships.
In early 2334, on Stardate 14306.1 an incident occurred aboard NCC-26571 (The unchristened U.S.S. Nautilus) while in space dock during a warp field test. Details of the incident remain classified but it is known that both Project Nautilus vessels were involved and the incident resulted in the destruction of Mars Orbital Drydocks Gamma-1 and Gamma-2 as well as damage to both vessels and the death of 78 people including Dr. Shaw and over half of his design team. After the incident Starfleet Command took direct control over Project Nautilus under the direction of Admiral Briggs. Both ships were repaired and U.S.S Argo launched on schedule on Stardate 14490.5 and U.S.S. Nautilus is slated to launch on 14573.86.