Ship Design from the 21st to the 24th CenturyThe (SS?) Enterprise Class
Designed and built around a Human variant on the Vulcan toroidal engine, the warp 2 capable ship was extremely fast and agile, though it's spindly design frequently expierenced hull cracking under subspace stress and it was too small to be useful for anything beyond short range exploration and testing.
The NX Class
Based off a starship design glimpsed from the future by Zefram Cochrane during the First Contact temporal incident, thus allowing him to design a more subspace-dynamic vessel by chance then should have currently been allowed due to the poor understanding of warp field geometries of the time. This in turn helped the NX-01 achieve higher warp speeds with greater efficiency in cooperation with the new experimental warp 5 engine, however, at the time this was unknown.
The NY / Daedalus Class
A cooperative developement between Earth and it's alien allies during the Romulan War and in preperation for the founding of the Federation after the war, it was a bulkier, more volume to surface area efficient vessel that though it had the same warp 5 engine with modifications to achieve slightly better then warp 5 as it's predescessor, could not manage to achieve the same speeds. Studies were done comparing the hull of the NX-01 to the Daedalus and the answer was revealed. This was the beginning of the understanding of the evolving field of subspace-dynamics, and it would change the shape of Starfleet vessels forever. Smaller but bulkier vessels designed for maximum machinery / cargo / personnel capacity on the drawing boards were thrown out in favor of more streamlined designs that used less fuel and were faster to be better able to patrol the rapidly growing new United Federation of Planets.
The Oberth Class
A curious stepping stone in this new design philosophy was the Oberth Class. Eliminating the traditional "neck" connecting the saucer and engineering hulls in favor of two thin struts, and streamlining the hulls to an extreme degree achieved amazing performance from the new warp 6 engines, but unfortunately at the cost of low internal volume. As these vessels were primarily assigned to low / medium ranged scientific missions however, this was not a major concern and the ship was extremely successful for 200 years, the longest lasting vessel type in Starfleet history.
The Bonaventure Class
Developed consurrently with the Oberth as her larger more combat / deep space oriented sister project, this vessel was the testbed of many of the design philsophies that would become standard on starships of the future. Teardrop shaped engineering hull, thin concave sloped saucer, strong but thin neck to maximize streamlining, etc. However her relatively small size was a hindrance to longer deep space missions.
The Constitution Class
The culmination of all the design philosophies that had come before it. Teardrop engineering hull, thin but strong neck, concave saucer, but in a large ship bigger then any launched before and capable of carrying the crew size and technology nescessary for long range deep space missions of up to five years. This would become the standard in design for deep space exploration / combat vessels for centuries to come. Her new warp 7 engines and efficient design made her the fastest ship of the major powers of the Alpha Quadrant at the time. Her smooth, glow-in-the-dark material-coated hull was perfectly streamlined for the subspace realm and required her to carry no external running lights.
The Constitution Refit Class
Basically took the same design and improved on it significantly. The bulbous bridge section was hidden within a higher sloping saucer which provided greater internal volume and subspace-dynamics. The exposed primary deflector / sensor dish was covered with a housing that also improved those factors. A torpedo launch bay was added to the neck that reduced streamlining slightly but at the same time freed up a great deal of internal volume and strengthened the neck considerably. The new warp engines were state of the art.
The Miranda Class
Designed to take all the lessons learned from the Constitution class and put them in a smaller, more efficient, and faster combat and medium range exploration package. It was an enormous success, with ships serving 100 years and more. It's streamlined design allowed ships to make quick runs to the outskirts of Federation space, and thus Mirandas can be frequently found being borrowed as cargo transports in times of need and can always be seen in almost any fleet.
The Soyuz Class
Basically an attempt at taking the lessons from the Miranda Class and making a better exploration vessel out of them by adding numerous scientific pallets which drastically reduced streamlining. It was a collossal failure and was retired from developement almost as soon as entering it. The existing vessels were converted to Miranda class standard after 2285.
The Constellation Class
A moderately successful vessel built to replace the Soyuz after it failed, it compensated for it's lack of streamlining by simply adding two extra nacelles to compensate. It's higher internal volume and extra scientific sensors made it an excellent deep space exploration vessel.
The Excelsior Class
Dubbed "The Great Experiment," it would take exploration to a whole new level with it's transwarp drive. While the drive itself never broke the "Warp 10 Barrier" that would allow it to be in all places in the universe at once and emerge in any point it wanted to instantaneously (that threshold not being crossed until Tom Paris from the USS Voyager broke it), it did significantly raise conventional warp speeds in the warp 9 plus zone, thus prompting an new recalibration of the warp speed scale that would last into the late 24'th century before needing recalibration again. It's elongated hull and nacelles, and thin but convex saucer were maximized for streamlining and efficient use of space. This vessel would be an enormous success and serve well into the early 25'th century.
The Excelsior Class Refit
After the Excelsior was damaged in battle at Khitomer in 2293, Sulu advised Starfleet to add hull fairings around the engineering section to protect the warp core from torpedo strikes that could penetrate the weak hull there until new techniques could strengthen the hull of conventional Excelsior designs. Though the hull fairing were streamlined, they still reduced performance, and thus an extra set of impulse engines were added and warp field modulators were added to the nacelles to improve efficiency.
The Ambassador Class
Tried to take the Excelsior's design features and increase them in size with limited success. The convex saucer and cylindrical engineering hull of previous vessels were a vast imrpovement in volume at that size but less so in efficiency. It seemed the upper limit of speed and efficiency with those design features had been reached.
The Galaxy Class
Attempted to take the larger size of the Ambassador and make it more efficient. The saucer was dramatically widened but made elliptical to increase efficiency. The neck was smoothed into the engineering hull rather then just a vertical connection, this made it more streamlined [i]and[i] larger and more strong. The engineering hull was flattened and widened to keep the same amount of internal volume in a more streamlined shape. The overall result was the most volume ever incorporated into a Starfleet vessel in a reasonably efficient package. This made the Galaxy Class into one of Starfleet's most sucessful designs, though prohibitevely expensive to build in terms of rescources.
The Nebula Class
Took the Galaxy's design and put it into a compact form, increasing hull strength while maintaining effieciency and allowing for extra scientific packages to be carried.
The Defiant Class
Something of an oddity, this vessel is extremely streamlined and small with a powerful warp drive, making it extremely overpowered for it's size.
The Akira Class
Took the elliptical saucer and eliminated the secondary hull to make an extremely effiecient vessel.
The Sovereign Class
Took the elliptical saucer of the Galaxy and rotated it so it was more streamlined while at the same time stretching the hull and eliminating the neck to improve efficiency. One of the fastest vessels in the fleet.
The Intrepid Class
Began changing the elliptical saucer into a delta planform for more efficiency. No neck increases streamlining.
The Norway Class
Takes a fully triangular saucer and eliminates the secondary hull for extremely high speed.
The Prometheus Class
The culmination in efficiency, the delta saucer and no neck as well as four warp nacelles make it the fastest vessel in Starfleet.
The Titan Class
Would most likely have a delta shaped saucer, no neck, an elongated and flattened engineering hull, and long nacelles if following the above design philosophy.
(Theory by Bond, James Bond)