The Sovereign-class was introduced during the early 2370s, and was, at the time, the most advanced starship design in the fleet, though not as large as the Galaxy-class starship. The Sovereign-class USS Enterprise-E was built at the San Francisco Fleet Yards and was launched from that facility on stardate 49827.5. (Star Trek: First Contact dedication plaque)
The Sovereign class' first major engagements came in 2373, when the USS Enterprise saw action in the Borg incursion into Sector 001, and was instrumental in the destruction of the attacking cube. (Star Trek: First Contact)
While the Sovereign-class was not a key player in the Dominion War, such vessels as the Enterprise-E spent time during the war putting out diplomatic "brush fires" and extending the occasional olive branch, as the Federation Diplomatic Corps were busy attempting to put an end to the war. (Star Trek: Insurrection)
Sometime after the Enterprise's mission in the Briar Patch and before the engagement with the Reman warship Scimitar, a refitting of the Enterprise-E took place. The major changes included five additional torpedo tubes and four additional phaser arrays. A slight change in the warp nacelle pylons was also implemented. The Enterprise was able to deploy these new systems in 2379, prior to its mission to Romulus. (Star Trek Nemesis)
Nearly seven hundred meters in length, the design of the Sovereign-class consisted of two hull sections: a saucer-shaped primary hull and a secondary hull which mounted two warp nacelles. (Star Trek: First Contact)
The Sovereign-class originally employed twelve phaser arrays at key locations throughout the ship's hull. Seven dorsal phaser arrays were located on the primary hull, one extending around the saucer section, giving it an oval appearance. Six smaller arrays covered the aft dorsal firing arcs and were located along the aft portion of the saucer section, above the main shuttlebay.
Four ventral phaser arrays were located on the primary hull, extending around in nearly a half circle on both the starboard and port ventral sides of the saucer section. A single phaser array was located along the ventral section of the engineering hull, running perpendicular to the hull. (Star Trek: First Contact; Star Trek: Insurrection) During the refit, four were added to the trailing edges of the warp nacelle pylons (one dorsal and one ventral for each pylon) bringing the phaser array count to sixteen. (Star Trek Nemesis)
In her original configuration, the Sovereign-class mounted five torpedo launchers. The "main" launcher was located on the ventral portion of the saucer on a turret and was supplemented by one twin-tube launcher, forward and aft at the bottom of the secondary hull. The refit saw the addition of five more tubes: three on the dorsal saucer section (a single tube facing forward on deck 3 and a twin-tube launcher facing aft [located above the aft saucer airlock]) as well as two on the secondary hull, both facing aft – one above and one below the secondary hull shuttlebay. (Star Trek: First Contact; Star Trek Nemesis)
In terms of deck layout, the upper sections of the Sovereign-class starship formed the command section and living areas, while the lower decks housed main engineering and fuel supplies.
As is traditional, deck numbering ascended from top to bottom. At the top of the saucer section was Deck 1, which housed the main bridge. This deck also held the more recent modifications of an observation lounge, a ready room for the ship's captain, and an airlock with attached cabin.
Deck 2 encompassed the first of the many levels of crew quarters, with rooms for the highest-ranking command staff and an officer's mess hall. Decks 3 through 9 featured more officers' quarters, the forward and aft viewing lounges, science labs, the main shuttlebay, conduits for the optical data network, and the vessel's main computer core.
Decks 10 through 14 completed the primary hull of the Sovereign-class starship, and also encompassed forward and aft cargo bays on decks 10 and 11, and phaser systems on deck 11. The stellar cartography department aboard the Sovereign-class was located on deck 11. Sensors and the secondary navigational deflector were found on deck 12.
Deck 13, which was taken up almost entirely by deuterium fuel tanks, marked the real split between the habitable areas and the engineering and ship's storage sections. Main engineering and its related systems – such as the EPS power taps, the central matter/antimatter reaction chamber, support labs, and the engineering computer core – were spread over decks 14 through 18.
Deck 14 was largely dedicated to engineering systems, and also featured the lower sensor platform. Decks 15 through 18 comprised the main navigational deflector array and an auxiliary bridge, which was also known as the battle bridge.
Deck 16 also featured the launch and retrieval mechanism for the captain's yacht. The yacht was lowered by a set of gantries until its engines extended to operational position and then it would be free to maneuver.
The Sovereign-class was also equipped with an astrometrics lab where a direct uplink with Starfleet Cartography could be established. Interference from nearby astronomical phenomena could interfere with the lab's link with Starfleet Cartography. (Star Trek: First Contact; Star Trek: Insurrection; Star Trek Nemesis; MSD okudagram)
Command and control systems
The computer system on board the Sovereign-class were bio-neural gel pack-based. Computer systems were concentrated in two computer cores. The primary core was located directly below the main bridge on decks 6 through 8. The secondary core was located in the engineering section, adjacent to environmental control, on decks 15 through 17.
Primary operational control of the ship was provided by the main bridge, located at the top of the primary hull. The bridge directly supervised all primary mission operations and coordinated all departmental activities.
The central area of the main bridge provided seating and information displays for the captain and two other officers. The captain's chair was raised from the rest of the bridge officers to the height of the surrounding level, which included tactical and operations. The two officer seats were equipped with fully programmable consoles for a variety of uses.
Directly fore of the command area was the conn officer, who faced the main viewer. To the port side of the conn officer, also facing the main viewscreen, was the operations officer's console, which was identical in size and design to the helm station.
At the very front of the bridge chamber was a large viewscreen. When the screen was not active, a standard bulkhead was present.
Aft and to the left of the command area was an elevated platform on which tactical and security consoles were located. To the captain's right, behind the tactical console, was the mission operations section of the bridge. Against the starboard side walls of the main bridge were the consoles for sciences, along with others that were programmable for a multitude of functions.
Located against the aft wall of the bridge was a large master systems display monitor, similar to the one in engineering. All relevant ship information (such as damage, power distribution, etc.) could be displayed on this cutaway image of the vessel. This monitor could be used to direct ship operations and could be configured for limited flight control if necessary.
Also located against the aft wall of the main bridge was the large engineering console. This had a smaller cutaway diagram of the vessel, which displayed all engineering-relevant data and showed warp fields and engine output.
There were two turbolifts on the bridge. There was also an emergency ladder that connected the bridge to lower decks. Additionally, the bridge provided direct access to the observation lounge, which was located directly aft of the bridge, and the captain's ready room. (Star Trek: First Contact)
The captain's ready room doubled as an office and a second private cabin in addition to the commanding officer's private quarters. It was located off the starboard side of the main bridge on deck 1, and provided a place where the captain could work or rest while remaining next to the bridge in case of an emergency. Meetings between the captain and one or two people would also take place here.
In one corner there was a simple, narrow bed with a small bookcase over it. Toward the rear of the room was a desk with a computer console.
In a corner behind the desk was a doorway which led into a bathroom containing a sonic shower. Below a mirror was a sink that had no visible controls; the water came on automatically when hands were placed beneath the faucet, and went off when they were withdrawn.
Usually, the ready room would be decorated by its occupant by adding a number of personal ornaments.
Main engineering contained the controls for the warp and impulse drive systems. Entrance to the primary engineering spaces was provided by two large blast doors, a pair each deck on decks 15 and 16, that could be closed for internal or external security reasons, as well as in case of emergencies. It was much larger than on previous starship classes and was split into three levels to accommodate the warp core, which spanned several decks.
The majority of controls were situated on the main deck (deck 16) and an upper level gantry. Arranged around the warp core stack were a number of control consoles that could be reconfigured to emulate all the command controls on the bridge.
The largest work station was the master systems display, which was used to monitor the status of all key systems and could comfortably accommodate four personnel. There were also various wall displays, including a schematic that showed the 'health' of the warp propulsion system.
The deuterium tanks were above the core, while antimatter storage pods surrounded the base of the core. Two large cylindrical tanks were positioned next to the warp core and contained highly dangerous plasma coolant. Two rectangular power transfer conduits fed off from the warp reaction chamber and angle out of main engineering to the port and starboard warp nacelles. (Star Trek: Insurrection)
Additionally, there were numerous ladders and access panels to Jefferies tubes, leading throughout the starship. A second tier ringed the second level of main engineering on deck 15. Two ladders on the opposite ends of the catwalk provided access. (Star Trek: First Contact) By 2379, Starfleet began implementing a force field system around the warp reactor. (Star Trek Nemesis)
The Sovereign-class was equipped with a warp core ejection system. Normally used as a last resort measure when a warp core breach was in progress, in 2375 the Enterprise-E used the capability in order to seal a subspace rift, caused by the Son'a, by remote detonating the ejected core. (Star Trek: Insurrection)
The Sovereign-class starship included at least four separate transporter rooms, capable of site-to-site transport. (Star Trek Nemesis) Unusually, the transporter console in a Sovereign-class transporter room was built into a wall opposite the transporter platform, from where the controls on the console could be seen. (Star Trek: Insurrection) The transporters could be operated from both the tactical and engineering stations on the ship's bridge. A Sovereign-class starship was capable of beaming a single small vessel – such as a Scorpion-class attack fighter – aboard, even if the smaller craft was mobile. (Star Trek Nemesis)
Crew support systems
One large sickbay facility, located on deck 7, served as the primary care facility on Sovereign-class starships. Equipped with six standard and one advanced biobed, sickbay was also home to the chief medical officer's office and a small lab used for routine analysis of patients. (Star Trek Nemesis)
The room itself was considered to be general purpose, and was often the location of regular crew physicals, appointments, and various medical emergencies – it could effectively handle the majority of situations that a starship crew would face. (Star Trek: First Contact)
The arrangement of living quarters was designed to be modular, so that at any time a particular area could be reconfigured to create larger or smaller residential areas. Most living areas were located on the upper and lower surfaces of the saucer section, offering residents a remarkable view of the starscape outside their windows.
As was common on Starfleet vessels, the living accommodations for senior officers and VIPs were larger than standard crew quarters. Officers' quarters usually included a living area in the center of the dwelling, which held a personal workstation, couch, replicator, and a small dining area.
Connected to this was a bedroom that featured a double-sized bed and room for personal belongings. Normally, the bedroom would be connected by a half-bathroom with wash basin, mirror, toilet, several drawers, and a sonic shower. For senior staff, this bathroom was usually upgraded to a full-sized bathroom with bathtub. (Star Trek: Insurrection)
Auxiliary spacecraft systems
Located at the dorsal stern of the primary hull, the main shuttlebay took up a significant portion of the aft section of decks 6 through 9 on the Sovereign-class. Due to the mission profile of the Sovereign, the shuttlebay extended further than normal for a vessel its size to accommodate runabouts and several shuttlecraft.
The secondary shuttlebay was located at the very aft portion of the engineering hull. This bay, while smaller than the main facility, was just as capable of handling flight operations as the main shuttlebay. (Star Trek: First Contact)
In addition to shuttlecraft, the Sovereign class also featured a captain's yacht, designed for special diplomatic missions. The yacht on board the Enterprise-E was named the Cousteau. (Star Trek: Insurrection)
The Sovereign-class starship carried a number of escape pods. In the event of a catastrophic emergency, these pods served the same purpose as the lifeboats of a water-based vessel and ensured the continued survival of passengers and crew after the primary vessel had to be abandoned.
The escape pods were located throughout the Sovereign-class starship's primary and secondary hulls: there were two rows of pods on the dorsal side of the command saucer, and two on the ventral side. Further rows of pods lined each side of the engineering hull.
Unlike the escape pods utilized on the Galaxy- and Intrepid-class, there was no outer hatch that opened for launch. (VOY: "Year of Hell") Instead, the heat shield of the escape pod lay flush with the Sovereign-class ship's outer hull. Personnel entered the pods through hatches that lined sections of the ship's corridors, and a situation display monitor was located between the pods.
Each hatch swung open on a hinge at the bottom, creating a short ramp from the floor of the corridor into the interior of the capsule. The pods were equipped with heat shields for atmospheric entry and landing if a suitable planet could be found to set down on. (Star Trek: First Contact)
- USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-E)
In production notes for Star Trek: First Contact, Michael Okuda suggested that the prototype for the Sovereign-class was the USS Sovereign and would have had a registry in a range around NX/NCC-75000. The Sovereign was also mentioned briefly in the Star Trek Encyclopedia, but the vessel itself has not been seen on screen to date.
The official cutaway poster of the vessel that was released for First Contact designates the ship as an "Explorer Type 2".
It appears that the Sovereign class had at least two sickbay facilities, given sources in Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek Nemesis that indicate sickbays on decks 8 and 16. The Sovereign class was not the first class of vessel to have several sickbays; for example, Beverly Crusher was seen evacuating a sickbay in the engineering hull of the USS Enterprise-D in Star Trek Generations, as well as being treated in the engineering hull sickbay herself in "The Arsenal of Freedom".
The saucer separation capability of the Sovereign class was something that was neither seen nor mentioned on screen or in the scripts, but John Eaves went ahead and designed a detailed separation anyway. Design sketches were published in Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 11, page 49. Ronald D. Moore also stated that he believed the Enterprise-E had a detachable saucer section. (AOL chat, 1997)
Most sources agree that the Enterprise-E was 2,248 feet (685.2 meters) long. John Eaves described the rationale as follows:
"When the "E" had a final approved design, we drew up a chart of all the Enterprises in profile. Herman [Zimmerman] and I set down a whole bunch of cutouts of the "E" in various sizes to see where this new ship should scale with the others. We found one size that looked appropriate and we put a scale to its length and that would be 2,248 feet. Rick [Sternbach] was waiting to do the blueprints and add his creativity to the design, so we gave him a drawing with this one measurement. From there he sized the whole ship ..." 
The length of 2,248 feet can also be seen in John Eaves' size charts for Star Trek: Insurrection.  The Star Trek Nemesis size chart puts it at 2,250 feet, but since all the other figures in the chart are expressed to the nearest ten feet, we don't know whether this was a size revision or mere rounding for the purposes of this chart. 
According to John Eaves, the Enterprise-E was to have been retrofit at the end of Star Trek Nemesis but due to budgetary reasons and script changes the Enterprise was only seen being repaired in dry dock. "For the end of the film the badly destroyed and damaged E is being rebuilt in space-dock. This is where the opportunity was given to really fix all the lines and flow to match the roots of where the original drawing had left off. Not too often does one gets the chance to rework a beloved piece of art, and I was so happy to get the chance regardless of how minor the changes were."
"The drawings were done and to be seen as the E leaves the space-dock at the end of Nemesis, with what we were hoping to get approval on being the new Aztec patterned paint job, that was so prominent with all the preceding variations of the Enterprise. As production went on, it was becoming clear that Nemesis was going to be the last of the TNG movies and thus, the E would fly no more. Very sad thoughts, and I was so hoping to at least to get to see that final version fly off into space... Budget and script changes kept the E in the bay under repair so all that exists of the big finish only exists on paper as a bunch of plans." 
The class's prototype, the USS Sovereign (β), has appeared or been mentioned in several non-canon sources, such as the novels Spectre, Dark Victory, and The Genesis Wave, Book One, as well as the Pocket Books' reference works release Starship Spotter. The Sovereign was also the ship the player commanded in the later portions of the game Star Trek: Bridge Commander.
Star Trek: Bridge Commander and Star Trek: Legacy list a likely and widely-accepted registry number for the Sovereign as NX-73811 (later NCC-73811). Other games mentioning the Sovereign are the role-playing game supplements The Price of Freedom from Last Unicorn Games and Starships from Decipher. In Star Trek: Legacy there were several Sovereign-class starships seen in the campaign, including the Enterprise, Sovereign, Davis (β), and Legacy (β).
In the video game Star Trek: Invasion, two Sovereign-class vessels appeared: the USS Enterprise-E, and the USS Sentinel-B (β). The Enterprise-E is also the main base of operations in the game Star Trek: Elite Force II.
The Sovereign-class is also the most powerful class available to the player in the game Star Trek: Armada, with the variant timeship USS Premonition (β) also including a temporal weapon which allowed the player to pause time in local areas. This ship has never been mentioned anywhere else and due to the events of the game may never have existed (due to changes in the timeline by the player's actions.)
In Star Trek: Armada II, one Sovereign-class starship is the Saratoga (β). In both games, the Sovereign-class has a special weapon called the "Corbomite Reflector" which deflects enemy torpedoes, sometimes right back at the ship that fired them.
In Star Trek Online, the Sovereign-class starship is an "Assault Cruiser", available to those with the rank of Rear Admiral. The Vice Admiral variant comes with metreon gas canisters and a special quantum torpedo launcher. Between the free-to-obtain version, the Rear Admiral variant, the Vice Admiral variant, and the Fleet variant, there are six classes: Sovereign, Regent, Majestic, Noble, Archon, and Imperial. The mirror universe version of these classes are referred to as "Star Cruiser".