(covers information from several alternate timelines)
While investigating a "lightning storm in space", the Kelvin was attacked and destroyed by a Romulan mining vessel, called the Narada, from the late 24th century. The incursion of the Narada and destruction of the USS Kelvin triggered the creation of the alternate reality.
In 2255 of that reality, the Shipyard Bar in Iowa, on Earth, featured salt shakers shaped like Kelvin-type starships. While there, James T. Kirk had fiddled with a broken shaker pondering his discussion with Christopher Pike, who had once written a dissertation on the Kelvin. Kirk was born aboard one of the Kelvin's medical shuttles shortly before its destruction, which had claimed the life of his father. (Star Trek)
Layout and capabilities
Comprised of enough room to carry a crew of at least 800, the Kelvin-type contained at least thirteen decks. It had a single ventral warp nacelle housing the ship's warp drive engine, a saucer section topped by a central dome, and a dorsal secondary hull, which featured a single shuttlebay at the aft and a navigational deflector at the front.
The low warp nacelle had an unusual extra exhaust at its aft end, which lit up when the nacelle was energized. An impulse drive was also at the aft of the saucer section. The navigational deflector had an extremely thin emitter at its center, surrounded by a circle that was completely black in the middle but had a blue petal-like pattern at its fringe, retaining the black as a background. The forward end of the nacelle had a ring that looked similar but was primarily colored gold.
A spine ran from the nacelle and the secondary hull along the under and upper sides of the saucer section, respectively. The saucer section was approximately equidistant from the secondary hull and the nacelle, though the hindmost connection between the spine's bottom half and the saucer section was slightly more forward than that between the spine's topside and the saucer; unlike its underside, the spine's top half extended across the entire distance from the aft of the saucer section to the middle of the saucer. At the midpoint, the spine connected with the central dome. Slightly aft of here, the starboard side of the spine featured a circular portal (most likely an escape pod hatch or a docking port), another of which was on the starboard side of the secondary hull.
The Kelvin-type was equipped with subspace communications as well as numerous sensors, including gravitational sensors. This form of vessel could even track, remotely, the health of absent members of the ship's crew. From its bridge, the ship could be set on red alert and autopilot function could be engaged. Three antennas were used in conjunction with the autopilot, labeled a, b and c. Even if the autopilot system was destroyed, the manual guidance system could still be employed.
The Kelvin type was armed with turret-mounted phaser banks and photon torpedo launchers. The dorsal and ventral surfaces of the saucer section each featured two pairs of dual phaser banks and three pairs of multiple torpedo launchers. The turrets were stowed beneath hatches when not in use. (Star Trek)
Located in the central dome atop the saucer section, the Kelvin-type bridge had a variety of lighting schemes, depending on the ship's alert status. The room featured a trisected viewscreen that additionally served as a window and could be polarized, negating any glaring light outside the ship. The bridge also had multiple overhead handrails and featured a single command chair at its center, positioned on an area that was slightly raised from most of the rest of the deck. The right arm of the chair was outfitted with a control panel, whose instruments included a manual steering column for navigation and an intercom that could be used to contact the rest of the ship.
The command chair was near a central grouping of stations, with a joint double station – containing more helm functions – directly ahead and two stations at either side, slightly forward of the command chair. Aboard one particular vessel of this type, the ship's first officer typically occupied the station to the left of the command chair.
Additional stations were positioned at the outsides of the bridge, three of which were located in a row beneath and facing the viewscreen, with the double station to the rear. Another grouping of three stations was located at the aft of the room, which were on the same raised level as the command chair. A door was at either side of this row of stations.
The Kelvin-type shuttlebay was a darkly-lit, cavernous area that had a track in the middle of its floor, with the shuttlebay's pair of large double-doors at one end. Green running lights could advance along the track, towards the doors, to guide crafts out of the shuttlebay in cases of emergency. On either side of the track, two decks were available for the storage of shuttlecraft. Regularly arranged vertical partitions separated spaces for the crafts to be parked on the landing decks, from which the crafts lifted off at their own accord.
The Kelvin-type contained a brightly white-lit sickbay that was furnished with at least one biobed in roughly the middle of the room, beside which were a pair of overhead monitors and two free-standing consoles.
The Kelvin-type had an enormous, industrial-looking engineering area that included numerous walkways, several of which were elevated, and at least one flight of stairs. Red-lit cylindrical conduits were at various points in this environment, such as vertically in some of the structural supports and horizontally on several of the railings at the sides of the walkways. The area also incorporated at least three exposed turboshafts, ropes for easy descent, many pipes of various sizes and at least four consoles.
Corridors and turbolifts
Travel within the Kelvin-type was available mainly via turbolifts and corridors. At regular intervals throughout each corridor, supports with an obtuse angle formed a flat roofed corbel arch, making the overall shape of the corridors an elongated hexagon. Each corridor was dimly illuminated, with circular pools of light shining down from the ceiling and lighting strips running the length of the floor and supports, at their perimeters. During a red alert, a cylindrical red glowing conduit – much like an extremely long version of the ones in engineering – ran horizontally along both walls. The floor lights would also turn red, while the support lights and ceiling lights would remain white.
The Kelvin-type turbolifts each had six walls and a door. As seen from inside one of the turbolifts, the walls had glowing panels that changed between a dimmed setting to a brighter luminosity when a traveler entered the lift. At least in times when red alert was engaged, these panels were lit red. The outsides of the turbolifts had bright white panels of light, which could be glimpsed as the lifts traveled through the exposed turboshafts in engineering.
At least one of the turbolifts was built at the end of a corridor, close to the outside of the ship's saucer section. Another corridor led from the bridge's starboard door to an intersection where one direction led straight on while another turned left and continued to a turbolift. This lift provided access to the engineering area, as did a turbolift near the medical bay. From engineering, travel to the shuttlebay was facilitated by passage through a wide walkway – one of the passageways lined with the short conduits – then across a short bridge, at a right angle to the wide walkway, and through a set of double-doors that led from the end of the bridge to the required shuttlecraft. Typically, where the walkway and the short bridge met had a board of signage extended from the ceiling and large numbers, showing the related shuttlecraft's registry, emblazoned on the ground. (Star Trek)
Writers and producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman did not select any name for this class of vessel.  The name used here for this type of ship is therefore unofficial and taken from the USS Kelvin, the only ship of its type to have appeared on screen. The Kelvin was originally to have been named the USS Iowa.  The Star Trek: Federation - The First 150 Years reference book names this class as the Einstein-class.
This type of ship is similar to a few rarely-seen classes in the prime universe that likewise have a single nacelle (rather than the usual quantity of two nacelles), including the Saladin-class, Hermes-class and Freedom-class.
Quantum Mechanix, who built the desktop model of USS Kelvin for Star Trek Into Darkness, describes the class on their website as the Federation starship design that was the workhorse of Starfleet in 2233.  A dossier on the official website for the movie Star Trek states that the Kelvin was used primarily as a survey vessel.  However, before the film's release, Roberto Orci hinted that, while science was one of the Kelvin's functions, the vessel was not "a strict science ship."  Once, production designer Scott Chambliss even characterized the craft as a "big warship." (Star Trek Magazine issue 144, p. 40)
Designing the Kelvin-type
In at least one draft of the screenplay for the film Star Trek, the Kelvin-type is said to have multiple shuttlebays and two massive flashlights on the saucer section, the latter of which could be remotely operated from the bridge. The same script draft does not include any outright statement that the Kelvin should look older than the movie's USS Enterprise.  However, when Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were asked if they had indicated this age difference in the screenplay, Kurtzman replied, "We indicated that it was an older generation ship, so it did not have the same look. In the description, we were setting up when you reveal the Enterprise that it is a different class. There was a sense almost that you were starting on the ships from the original series. We wanted to feel that a bit in the texture of the Kelvin." (Star Trek Magazine issue 146, p. 40) In fact, prior to the film's release, Orci claimed, "When you meet the Kelvin it is pristine, it is a beautiful site."  The writers did not devise any such specifications as the dimensions and tonnage of the Kelvin-type. 
Art director Dennis Bradford oversaw the design work on the USS Kelvin.  Although the film's two concept artists (Ryan Church and James Clyne) usually worked on separate projects, Scott Chambliss assigned both artists to work on designing the Kelvin. (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 15) The ship's exterior was designed by Ryan Church; the interiors, including the bridge, corridors, turbolift and shuttlebay, were designed by James Clyne.  Industrial Light & Magic also contributed more exterior elements than just the previously explained deployment system used by the photon torpedo launchers. Noted Church, "ILM was responsible for a lot of the details." Some other aspects of the Kelvin design have been attributed to Scott Chambliss. For instance, Alex Jaeger commented, "Scott Chambliss designed the interior sets to have a claustrophobic feel, with a lot of handrails and fittings." (Cinefex, No. 118, p. 48) Executive producer Bryan Burk said of Chambliss, "[He] really made the ship really tangible." (audio commentary, Star Trek Special Edition/Three-disc Blu-ray)
Devising how the outside of the Kelvin should look was a fairly detailed process. "I did many concepts for the look of the Kelvin," Ryan Church related, "some conservative and some fairly pushed. In the end we figured out that it really had to look a lot more 'traditional Trek.' It's a very simple basic shape." Similarly, J.J. Abrams and Scott Chambliss made it clear to James Clyne that they intended for the Kelvin's interior – in comparison with some of the film's later-era vessels – to be more like traditional Star Trek designs.  Chambliss explained, "That is how J.J. [Abrams] and I wanted to start the movie, with 'oh look it is a Star Trek space ship!' and make it really recognizable. Supe it up and make it more lavish, because we had more money, but honor what has come before and make it familiar in a way that old fans would like. But that was also a dramatic ploy on our part, because in doing so, we wanted to create the highest contrast possible for the Enterprise. Because how do you make the Enterprise feel fresh and new, if it looks exactly like something we have seen for the last 40 years? The Kelvin was the contrast we did to hopefully make the Enterprise feel cool and new." 
While it was known as the USS Iowa, the Kelvin had an exterior far more typical of the Starfleet ships from the original series than its final design. One concept painting by Ryan Church shows the ship with a warp nacelle and secondary hull very similar to those of the traditional Constitution-class, with one side of both sections showing a familiar yellow arrowhead symbol backed by red racing stripes. The secondary hull also has a gold-colored navigational deflector that is more prominently in the shape of a dish than how it ended up. This is also true of another image, although the red striping along the side of the warp nacelle is gone, and there are very few details on the saucer section. (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, pp. 22-23)
As was made clear to James Clyne, both J.J. Abrams and Scott Chambliss wanted the Kelvin to look more "functional" and have "more of a battleship aesthetic" than the rest of the ships in the film.  Comparing the Kelvin to the Enterprise, Abrams said of the former vessel, "I tried to make [it] [...] more submarine-like, clunky, darker, metallic." (Memory Alpha:Ask J.J. Abrams/Answers) Indeed, Abrams also recalled that the look of the Kelvin stemmed from a "submarine-like, almost Soviet-era design." (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 22) Alex Jaeger ultimately thought this influence remained apparent, remarking, "The Kelvin had a very run-down, old submarine feel to it." (Cinefex, No. 118, p. 48) Chambliss concurred that, alternative to the Enterprise, the Kelvin has a "more typical militaristic style." 
Scott Chambliss accounted for another facet of the ship's "retro feel" by saying, "The Kelvin recalls sci-fi of the '30s through '50s." (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 22) He elaborated, "It refers to the sci-fi of, like, the late '30s – like the Buster Crabbe stuff – and also, like, the early '50s things, like The Day the Earth Stood Still. That's all kind of mashed together to create this look." (Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships") According to Chambliss, deciding to make the Kelvin "feel more like Flash Gordon" than the Enterprise does was another way in which the two ships were made to look vastly different from one another. (Star Trek Magazine issue 144, p. 40)
ILM tried to match the aged quality of the Kelvin's interior with the ship's outer appearance. "We aged the exterior with streaks of grease and rust," Alex Jaeger clarified. (Cinefex, No. 118, p. 48) He further commented, "It's very worn, very used. It's a lot darker than we're used to seeing ships in Star Trek." (Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships")
The Kelvin-type warp nacelle was not only generally modified to become less visibly influenced by the original series but also underwent some very subtle changes. For example, the Kelvin-type shuttlebay doors underwent very minor additions and detailed adjustments, as demonstrated in an example of computer artwork dated 8 January 2008. (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, pp. 23 & 25)
By or on 10 September 2007, the Kelvin was scaled to be a total of 2,148 feet (655 meters) long. (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 145) However, by or on 14 January 2008, this size was decreased to a length of 1,500 feet (457.2 meters). (Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships")
Before filming any scenes in his role of USS Kelvin captain Richard Robau, actor Faran Tahir had not seen any exterior designs of this type of ship, although he had done a small amount of research on the basic architecture of Federation vessels. "My feeling was that it would probably have the qualities that we know as a Federation ship," he said of the Kelvin. "It might be a little dated, a little older, which is exactly what it ended up being." Tahir was pleased by the ship design, remarking, "What I liked about the ship was that it felt like it had history. It had been out there for a while. That was the great thing about the way they designed it; it wasn't pristine. I like that – it gives the audience a real hook [...] [and] makes it more of a robust ship in its own way." (Star Trek Magazine issue 145, pp. 87-88)
Both the viral site β) and number 118 of Cinefex (p. 46) suggest that the station forming the starboard half of the joint double station on the Kelvin-type bridge was actually manned by the ship's security officer. The bridge's overhead handrails were meant to be used in cases of spatial turbulence but their usage is not demonstrated in the film. (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 21)(
James Clyne illustrated two concept paintings of the Kelvin-type bridge for each of its two lighting variations in which the room is shown in the movie: lit normally and at red alert. Clyne's inspiration for the Kelvin's bridge came from the bridge of the original USS Enterprise, the bridge of the USS Reliant, and current military ships and submarines. 
Scott Chambliss believed the effort to make the Kelvin appear consistent with traditional Star Trek design influenced the presentation of the vessel's bridge, helping distinguish it from the equivalent areas aboard the other ships in the film. "It's the most that you would look at and go, 'Oh, yeah, this must be the new Star Trek movie,' 'cause it kind of looks like what you've seen before," he reckoned. (Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships") Particular attention was spent on making the room look varied from the bridge of the film's Enterprise. Chambliss observed, "[It] feels a lot more analog and old school." (Star Trek Magazine issue 144, p. 42) Director of Photography Dan Mindel likewise noted that the Kelvin's bridge "had less sleek fixtures." (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 18)
The set for the Kelvin's bridge was built on Paramount Stage 8. (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 26) For some of the production period, the bridge was only a partially built set, with green screen replacing the walls, although lines of dialogue that were either rehearsed or shot while the room was in this state were not ultimately included in the movie. (Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships") Ryan Church was happy with the bridge once it was constructed. "It really looked great on set," he reminisced.
The seats on the bridge set were rubbed down, such as by on-set painter Andy Flores, to make them seem slightly weathered with age. Faran Tahir was of the opinion that this minor aging of the seats augmented the realism of the set. (Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships")
Bryan Burk was similarly impressed with the inclusion of the set's overhead handrails, believing that they made the set look more authentic and were a testament to Scott Chambliss' attention to detail, which Burk cited as heightening the plausibility of the ship's layout in general. (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, pp. 20-21; audio commentary, Star Trek Special Edition/Three-disc Blu-ray; Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships") He remembered, "A friend of mine, a huge Trek fan, visited the set, saw the rails, and said, 'Oh, my God – this is going to work!'" (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 21) Burk continued, "[The visiting friend] was commenting that, when you think about it, and you're flying through space and you're bouncing around, just the fact that these are here and you can hold on to them is something that you would assume would be on all spaceships. And I can't remember seeing it in another film." (audio commentary, Star Trek Special Edition/Three disc Blu-ray)
Not only was the Kelvin's shuttlebay represented by the Long Beach Generating Station but so was the ship's machine room. Supervising location manager Becky Brake recalled of this filming site, "When we saw a particular area, J.J. [Abrams] fell in love with it for the engine room of the Kelvin." (Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships") Stunt coordinator Joey Box suggested that one reason the location was used was "to give credibility to the engine room of an older Starfleet ship." (Star Trek Magazine issue 146, p. 61) The area of engineering containing the turboshafts was filmed with green screen, later to be replaced with CGI. (Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships")
Due to the grunginess of the power station's interior, the location appealed to not only Abrams but also to Scott Chambliss, who later remarked, "It feels like a place that's been around forever, which is how we wanted the Kelvin to feel. It had all the wear and tear, and the texture that J.J. and I love working with, the layers and layers of reality, and the dirt and the grime." (Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships") Believing that this engineering area was ultimately successful in helping visually differentiate the Kelvin-type from the movie's Enterprise, Chambliss concluded, "Along with the two very different Bridges, it sells the difference between the old ship and the new ship." (Star Trek Magazine issue 144, p. 40) Winona Kirk actress Jennifer Morrison was also wowed by how elaborate the environment of the power station's interior was, while it stood in for the engineering area, regarding it to be "incredible." (Star Trek Three disc Blu-ray documentary featurette "Starships")
According to Intel Corporation's (β), the Kelvin's impulse engines were powered by four deuterium fusion reactors and the inside of the warp nacelle contained two rows of massive semi-circular warp coils.
According to "Scotty", the NCC-0509 was a member of this class. Before Montgomery Scott attended Starfleet Academy, he helped restore the integrity of the ship's dilithium chamber, and, in return for his assistance, the captain put in a good word for Scotty with Commander Alexander Marcus at Starfleet Academy.