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For the starship class used in the 25th century, please see Excelsior II-class.
"My friends. The Great Experiment. The Excelsior."

The Excelsior-class was a type of Federation starship used by Starfleet between the late 23rd and late 24th centuries. It was the backbone of Starfleet for over a century, making it one of the longest-serving starship designs and one of the fleet's most recognizable ships.


The Excelsior-class was initially constructed during the early 2280s at Starfleet's San Francisco Fleet Yards orbiting Earth. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country dedication plaque)

Starfleet had high hopes for the first ship of this class, the prototype USS Excelsior, which was equipped with transwarp drive, and was regarded as that century's "Great Experiment." (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)

  • See: Trial runs for more concise details of the USS Excelsior's early history.

Despite the failure of the "Great Experiment," Starfleet forged ahead with employing the Excelsior design. After remaining in the Spacedock One until at least 2287, the prototype Excelsior was subsequently recommissioned for active service by 2290. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

In 2293, the fate of the Excelsior design was sealed when Starfleet passed on the name of a legacy. The launch of the USS Enterprise-B opened the door for the Excelsior-class to become one of the most widely used designs in all of Starfleet, lasting well into the late 24th century. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; Star Trek Generations; TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint" – VOY: "Endgame")

According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual [page number?edit], the Enterprise-B was launched from Starfleet's Antares Ship Yards. The Technical Manual further explained that "Although the decision to model [the Enterprise-B] on the failed original experimental Excelsior was at the time controversial, the economics of using the existing (and otherwise successful) engineering of the basic spaceframe were compelling."

Excelsior port of Galaxy

Alongside the USS Enterprise-D, a Galaxy-class starship

Once fully integrated into the fleet, the Excelsior's sister ships were used for a variety of mission profiles, ranging from deep space exploration and terraforming missions, to patrol duty, to courier and transport runs. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; TNG: "Tin Man", "The Drumhead", "Brothers", "Allegiance"; DS9: "Homefront", "For the Uniform", etc.) The Excelsior-class was also frequently used by the Starfleet flag officers for use as a personal flagship. (TNG: "The Offspring", "The Best of Both Worlds", "Chain Of Command, Part I", "Descent", "Preemptive Strike")

The Excelsior-class was present in several major Federation engagements, including the Borg invasion of 2366-2367, where it participated at the Battle of Wolf 359, as well as the engagement against the Borg sphere that entered the Sol system in 2378. (DS9: "Emissary"; VOY: "Unity", "Endgame") They were also present in numerous Dominion War battles, seeing action during Operation Return, the First and Second Battles of Chin'toka, and the Battle of Cardassia. Many Excelsior-class vessels were stationed on the front lines near Deep Space 9 during the war. (DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels", "Tears of the Prophets", "The Changing Face of Evil", "What You Leave Behind", etc.)

The Excelsior-class remained in service into the 2380s. (LD: "Mining The Mind's Mines") By 2401, a numbered successor class, the Excelsior II-class, was in service. (PIC: "The Star Gazer")

Daniels' database Excelsior class

Daniels' database file

Details of this class would be retained well into the 31st century, when Captain Jonathan Archer and Lieutenant Malcolm Reed viewed schematics on the class in the 22nd century while accessing the database belonging to temporal agent Daniels. (ENT: "Shockwave")

Technical data[]

Physical arrangement[]

USS Farragut, 2375

Port-side docking port

The Excelsior-class featured the saucer section-engineering section-warp nacelle layout common to most Starfleet vessels. However, it featured a more streamlined design than was seen in previous classes.

Design features of the primary hull included a docking port located on the port side of the hull. (DS9: "Chrysalis")

Design upgrades[]

Following its initial, and somewhat unsuccessful origins, the Excelsior underwent a minor refit, which included a new bridge module, in addition to a significant modification to the aft portion of the saucer section, surrounding the impulse drive, and a modification to the cargo bay on the aft ventral portion of the ship. This configuration would remain the standard for the Excelsior-class throughout its service. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

According to Charting the Undiscovered Country: The Making of Trek VI (p. 74), Bill George stated that "we changed the bridge area of the Excelsior model, because on this show, the bridge is actually very small – it's the Enterprise bridge redressed. The Excelsior was originally built for Star Trek III, where it had a cavernous bridge, and the model had a big bubble on top which I felt was always out of scale. We replaced it with a smaller bridge area which helped the overall scale of the model."

USS Enterprise-B facing the Nexus

The Enterprise-B, featuring additional impulse engines (top) and additional scoop surrounding the deflector dish (bottom)

In less than a decade, the Excelsior design underwent a second, more significant overhaul, as introduced with the launch of the USS Enterprise-B. While remaining true to the original design, this new configuration added several modifications to the basic hull, including the addition of a second pair of impulse engines, an expanded scoop surrounding the deflector dish, and the addition and removal of a number of fins located on the saucer and nacelles. (Star Trek Generations; DS9: "Paradise Lost")

According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, the additional impulse engines were added to provide the ship with stronger engines, which would be needed when the saucer detached. This corresponds with the inclusion of a battle bridge on MSD appearing on the Enterprise-B bridge in Generations.

As this class aged, Starfleet continued to incorporate the latest technology, through continued upgrades, refits and repairs, well into the 2360s and 2370s. In 2364, the USS Melbourne underwent significant repairs at Starbase 74, while in 2367 the USS Hood underwent a major system upgrade at Starbase 174. (TNG: "11001001", "Brothers", etc.)

Tactical systems[]

The original Excelsior design was outfitted with type 8 phaser emitters in five dual phaser bank emplacements on the forward saucer section, and one dual emplacement on the aft of the saucer. Phaser banks were also positioned laterally, located port and starboard, near the point that the primary and secondary hulls meet, as well as one emplacement located between the nacelles. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; Star Trek Generations production art; DS9: "Paradise Lost", etc.)

In addition, the Excelsior was equipped with several photon torpedo launchers. The two primary launchers were located in the forward section, on both sides of the deflector dish seen as two dark colored ports ahead of the starfleet hull banners. The upper forward launchers were located on the neck section, also allowing ship access for cargo management units. Aft launchers were located above the main shuttlebay. (Star Trek Generations production art) In addition, the shields were stronger than the Constitution-class refit, capable of withstanding a direct photon torpedo strike without suffering any visible damage to the outer hull. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

With the impending threat of the Dominion against the Federation, Starfleet began to experiment with performing a refit on the Excelsior-class USS Lakota in 2372. Upgrades included improved phaser emplacements, quantum torpedoes, and other improvements to make the it competitive with newer ship designs such as the Defiant-class. (DS9: "Paradise Lost")

Propulsion systems[]

Transwarp factor display

Transwarp drive – in theory

Initially the Excelsior was designed under a radically new principle in propulsion, the transwarp drive. While an awe-inspiring concept to some, it was the traditional engineers who remained skeptical of this new form of warp drive. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) Following this failure, the Excelsior spent the next two years in spacedock before being fitted with a traditional warp drive. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., p. 144, "although it was never made clear on film, it is generally assumed that the transwarp drive being tested in Star Trek III was a failure, and that the ship was later outfitted with a more conventional warp drive. The Excelsior's bridge control panels and computer readout displays seen in Star Trek VI tend to support this theory". It was theorized by the Star Trek Chronology, 1st ed., pp. 75-76 that this ship-wide systems failure might have been the one referenced to by Data when he mentioned no Federation vessel having such a problem in over eighty years in TNG: "Evolution". On page 14 of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, it was stated that "while the attempt to surpass the primary warp field efficiency barrier with the Transwarp Development Project in the early 2280s proved unsuccessful, the pioneering achievements in warp power generation and field coil design eventually led to the uprated Excelsior and Ambassador-class starships. Both vessels served Starfleet in exemplary fashion. They continue to do so, even beyond their original lifetimes."

Although several references were made to various Excelsior-class vessels traveling at "maximum warp" or "high warp", the maximum speed was never established. The only submittable reference comes from a line cut from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country that indicated Sulu ordering the Excelsior to warp 9 to get to Khitomer in time. In "Paradise Lost", Miles O'Brien was concerned about the potential "tinkering" that may have been "done to [the Lakota's] warp drive," when considering alternative options to combating the Lakota. For reference, the maximum known speed of the Defiant was warp 9.5. ("The Sound of Her Voice")

By the early 24th century, Excelsior-class vessels were normally equipped with dilithium recompositing and recrystallization technology. The theta-matrix compositor of the time, which later became outdated, was upgraded by the time the Galaxy-class was introduced. This new recrystallization process was ten times more efficient than that of the Excelsior-class. (TNG: "Family")

The Excelsior-class also used micro-power relays in its warp core matrix compositor. (DS9: "For the Uniform")

Interior design[]

Main bridge[]

Excelsior class bridge viewscreen

The main viewscreen (2293)

Located on top of the primary hull, the Excelsior's main bridge directly supervised all primary mission operations and coordinated all departmental activities. Due to the age and variety of configurations of the Excelsior-class, bridge configurations varied from ship to ship.

Against the aft wall of many Excelsior bridges was the large engineering master systems display monitor, showing a cutaway of the ship and status information. This was not originally part of the USS Excelsior configuration but added later, a feature shared with sister ship USS Enterprise-B. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; Star Trek Generations; VOY: "Flashback")

The Excelsior bridge was a partial set in Star Trek III. In Star Trek VI, the Excelsior bridge was a redress of the Enterprise-A bridge, shot on Paramount Stage 5, and was similar in many ways to the NCC-1701-B bridge seen in Star Trek Generations. The set was rebuilt from scratch, with some changes in detail and scale, for the production of "Flashback."

According to the text commentary from the Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Special Collectors Edition DVD, the "helm and nav console shells were borrowed from the USS Enterprise-D's battle bridge set. Production designer Herman Zimmerman used them to suggest that the Excelsior was more advanced than the Enterprise-A."

Holo-communicator with Sanders

Sanders transmitting from the bridge of the Malinche

At least one Excelsior-class starship, the USS Malinche, had a holo-communicator installed in its main bridge in 2373. Upon first use of the technology, Malinche Captain Sanders described to Captain Benjamin Sisko, who was on the transmitting end on board the USS Defiant, "you appear to be sitting on my bridge. It may take me a while to get used to this." (DS9: "For the Uniform")

Ready room[]

The captain's ready room was located adjacent to the bridge, and contained a desk and chair, along with a personal viewer, and was backed by several LCARS interfaces and an MSD. (TNG: "Unnatural Selection", "Tin Man"; DS9: "Paradise Lost")

Ensign Nog of Deep Space 9 once explained to Chief O'Brien how Al Lorenzo liked to sneak into famous starship captain's offices and take holophotos of himself sitting behind their desks. Included in Lorenzo's collection was a holophoto of himself sitting behind Captain DeSoto's desk on board the Hood. (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")

Each appearance of the captain's ready room has been a partial interior shot, and in all three cases (including one of Taggert aboard the USS Repulse, which consisted of a generic wall) were identified as being the "captain's ready room" in the script. In particular, the script from "Paradise Lost" simply states that Captain Benteen is "presumably communicating from her ready room on the Lakota."

Deflector room[]

Kirk enters deflector room

Access way to the deflector room

The deflector room, located on Deck 15, Section 21-alpha, was positioned directly behind the Excelsior's deflector dish. It was a small control room that could be accessed by a series of catwalks and ladders. The deflector room housed several consoles, in addition to the ship's deflector relays. (Star Trek Generations)

Shuttle and cargo bays[]

USS Excelsior, aft

Aft view, including shuttle and cargo bays in intense blue light

The Excelsior-class contained several cargo bays, including one located in the aft dorsal section of the secondary hull as well as several bays located along the ventral section of the secondary hull. (Star Trek Generations production art) The main shuttlebay was located in the stern by the landing bay doors, which housed several shuttles of different types, including the Type 7 shuttlecraft. (TNG: "The Child")


Senior officers, such as the captain, had private quarters below decks. Captain Hikaru Sulu's quarters were located on Deck 3.

Many of the enlisted crew, junior officers and officers shared quarters and bunk areas. They varied in occupant size from four to nine. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; VOY: "Flashback")

Ships commissioned[]




Background information[]

According to the script for Star Trek III, the Excelsior was described as "a super starship. Her lines are similar to Enterprise, but she is clearly bigger, sleeker, and very new. She sits at her mooring like the new Queen of Space." In relation to the Enterprise, "their size differential is apparent (B-29 to B-17)."[1]

Studio models[]

See Excelsior class model


The generally accepted length of 1,531 feet (466.6 meters) can be traced back to a size comparison chart developed for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and published in the June 1987 issue of Cinefantastique. The related comment below was posted by Bill George of ILM:

"I really don't think there is a definitive answer to this question. The only description we had at the time was that it was "souped-up" and bigger than the Enterprise. The size the miniature was built to was determined by the camera guys as being the optimal size to shoot. As I recall Nilo [Rodis-Jamero] did that size comparison chart, but it wasn't necessarily followed. The issue of true scale wasn't a consideration. Budget, ease of use, art direction and dramatic intent were what influenced the construction of the ship." (The Trek BBS)

Andrew Probert extended the ILM chart for Star Trek: The Next Generation, sizing his Ambassador concept halfway between the Excelsior and the Galaxy. [2] Visual Effects Supervisor Gary Hutzel would use 1,500 feet around 1998. [3]

Technical Manual[]

The following information of specifications and defenses comes exclusively from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual:

  • Production Base: ASDB Integration Facility, Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, Mars
  • Type: Explorer
  • Accommodation: 750 officers and crew; 130 visiting personnel; 9,800 personal evacuation limit
  • Power Plant: One 1500 plus Cochrane warp core feeding two nacelles; one impulse system
  • Dimensions: Length, 511.25 meters; beam, 195.64 meters; height, 86.76 meters
  • Mass: 2,350,000 metric tonnes


The advent of the Excelsior design and transwarp are referenced in Diane Carey's novel Battlestations! and licensed reference book Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise by Shane Johnson.

Shiplists and specifications of many unseen and conjectural Excelsior-class vessels are included in many role-playing game supplements such as the Federation Ship Recognition Manual and the TNG Officer's Manual from FASA, and the Decipher sourcebook Starships.

According to the novel Ghost Ship, some Excelsior-class ships in the 24th century have the ability to separate their saucers, including the USS Yorktown and the Hood.

In the novelization of Star Trek Generations Captain Sulu was performing an emergency saucer separation drill aboard the USS Excelsior when he receives word about Kirk's death aboard the USS Enterprise-B.

In the video game Star Trek: Elite Force II, the player character leads a mission aboard the Excelsior-class vessel USS Dallas (β) (NCC-2019). The dedication plaque states that the Dallas is the "last starship of her class."

Star Trek Online features the Excelsior-class and her refit as a commander level (Tier 3) "Advanced Heavy Cruiser" and rear admiral level (tier 5) "Advanced Heavy Cruiser Retrofit" respectively. This ship is equipped with a Transwarp Computer allowing you to Transwarp to different Sector Blocks. A Tier 6 Excelsior is now available on Star Trek Online alongside a fleet version.

External links[]

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