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In the year 2343 the design for a new multi-mission starship, the Nebula class starship, was approved. Compared to the Galaxy class the Nebula has a more compact shape - the engineering hull is mounted directly to the underside of the saucer section, a measure which saves some 200 meters in length.
This enables the vessel to carry any one of a variety of special equipment pods - current models include a high capacity sensor pod, an enhanced weapons pod, a colony transport pod, an emergency field hospital unit, or a science laboratory pod. Although the basic Nebula design has approximately 80% of the capability of a Galaxy class vessel in most areas, the addition of the mission pod brings that figure up to 95% or more in that specific area. This flexibility actually allows the Nebula design to accomplish almost almost identical missions despite its smaller size.
In service the Nebula Class has proved highly satisfactory, and in many ways these ships form the backbone of Starfleet's exploratory and scientific programs. Like the Galaxy class they have received regular upgrades to their systems, most notably a new warpcore design. With the advent of the threats from the Romulan, Dominion and Borg, Starfleet invested in sixty seven new enhanced weapon pods for the Nebula class; most of the vessels now carry this as a standard item.
As part of Starfleet's war effort many of its ships have been upgraded to increase their combat capabilities. The upgraded Nebula design has a maximum warp speed of Warp 9.9 and incorporates improvements to the weapons and targeting systems, a high level structural integrity field, and various other classified changes. All Nebulas now being produced are of the upgraded model, and all of these are launched with the enhanced weapons pod as standard. However, Nebula production is now being slowed in favor of the newer Kelvin Class Starship.
2343: Starfleet issues a general design brief for a multi purpose vessel capable of deep space, combat, and diplomatic missions replace the aging Ambassador Class. The general idea is for a modular starship. Permission for base designs are approved.
2344: Starfleet views the design schematics for the new class and after deliberation, the primary design is approved and briefs propulsion, computer, weapons and spaceframe parameters are sent out to Starfleet Design agencies for consultation. Spaceframe design is approved and full specifications are forwarded to the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards for designations. Production begins with a projected 11 year turnover for the prototype ship.
2345: Saucer Section separation mechanism is designed. This new design will allow the ship to separate saucer and stardrive sections in an emergency, but will not allow reconnection without the need of a major starbase.
2346: Separation systems pass Review 1, and finds shared with Galaxy team. Navigational Deflector designed. Theoretical Propulsions Dynamics Labs send a functional test core for fitting and alignment in the bare chassis. Chassis latching system passes Review 1. By the end of the year the Spaceframe is 37% completed.
2347: Mid year, computer cores arrive and are fitted to the Nebula. Propulsion dynamics labs deliver a fully functional warpcore for testing. By late June , reactors are on line and supplying primary power.
2348: Computer system are operating at 59% of maximum. System expected to become self aware late in the year. Warpcore begins primary testing. Stardrive section nears completion. Bridge module attached to primary hull. Master chassis now completed for three Starships. Newly designed type-3 torpedo launchers fitted.
2350: Primary hull work complete. Habitat modules are attached and bridge unit is brought to functional status. Chassis is completed. Computer systems are uploaded and tested. Primary modules are attached and outer hull of the saucer section nears completion.
2351: Warpcore passes Review 3 and it tested to 85% peak. Computer system fully self aware and umbilical from the station are cut as the ship become self sufficient. Structural latching systems onboard the USS Nebula with regards to saucer separation are tested and approved. Impulse systems pass Review 3 and being autonomous low level power control. Secondary back-up generators are shutdown and become auxiliary system control. Structural latching system for saucer separation passes Review 3.
2355: USS Nebula returns to Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards early in year. Warp Stress Coating is applied and the ship is clear to begin deep space assessments. All primary tests have passed Review 4. Final exterior markings and paint applied. On 3, July 2355 the USS Nebula is officially commissioned by Starfleet during a brief Ceremony. Bridge Plaque is put in pride of place and Captain To'lak takes command of the Ship.