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M/AM Warp Drive
Warp 8.5 (12 hours)
Multi-Layered Shielding System
The Grissom-class surveyor is Starfleet's most advanced deep space mapping platform. The successor in both form and function to the venerable and long-serving Oberth-class surveyor of the previous century, this small starship is intended to provide Starfleet Cartography with detailed surveys of space, mapping stars, planets, gravitational fields, and subspace itself to help starships plot the best routes at warp. In addition to this primary mission, ships of this class are also used for generalist scientific and exploratory missions.
Exploration and Science
Like the Oberth-class of the 23rd century, the Grissom-class enters the 25th century as a dedicated scientific surveyor. This class was designed specifically to carry highly sensitive long-range sensors that are ideal for stellar cartography missions. While a large explorer might have more sensor arrays, a ship of this class is intended to create detailed maps of space using the large instruments carried in her outrigger pod, the purpose of this pod being to hold these sensors further away from the ship's power generation and engine systems to minimize the impacts of localized interference on their operation. The equipment found aboard the Grissom-class is capable of mapping gravitational fields and subspace in great detail, which helps other starships plot optimal routes while traveling at warp. Another purpose of this mapping is to monitor subspace for any degradation caused to subspace by warp travel, especially from old-style warp engines.
To support her stellar mapping mission, the Grissom has two full astrometrics labs and a stellar cartography viewing chamber, all three of which are located in the secondary hull with direct connections to the sensors in the outrigger. Having multiple lab spaces allows several teams to analyze different types of data concurrently without impacting one another. For most missions, the stellar cartography department is the largest single team on the ship, encompassing specialists in everything from astrophysics to cosmology to subspace dynamics.
The Grissom is also capable of undertaking general science missions, with a half-dozen mission-configurable labs. Compared to the Oberth, the Grissom is much more capable of performing two different scientific missions at the same time: en route to a biological survey, the ship would likely also be conducting its normal stellar cartography surveys, with visiting biologists on board for just that mission and the stellar cartography team part of its normal crew. This ability to multi-task stems from the ship's much greater internal volume, thanks to miniaturized power generation systems and more advanced hull construction methods.
A full complement of survey probes is carried in the outrigger, ranging from multi-spatial probes to standard observation drones. These are launched through two forward launchers on the dorsal surface of the outrigger. Uniquely for a vessel of her small size, the Grissom also has a specialized lab for the construction of new probes. This is often useful when the ship is assigned to study unique interstellar phenomena that require specially-built probes to explore.
Typically, Grissom-class ships don't perform the first pass of a star system or sector. They follow larger explorers to perform more detailed studies. Still, given their powerful systems, they do often make important discoveries that Starfleet's larger and more prestigious ships missed.
Grissom-class ships are not suited for most diplomatic missions. Their low top speed and their high value for scientific tasks also makes them a poor choice for courier missions. In the rare circumstances where a ship of this class is the first to encounter a new race, they must evaluate the situation very carefully to make contact, as they would be vulnerable should anything go wrong. They are, however, useful for third or fourth contact missions when scientific data is exchanged between a new contact and the Federation.
Squinting, it would be easy to mistake the Grissom for the earlier Oberth, as they share the same layout. The Grissom, however, has much more organic curves which expand its internal volume significantly. The small primary hull is joined directly to the secondary hull, both of which have a roughly elliptical shape. The warp nacelles are mounted above the ship, above the pylons connecting the secondary hull to the outrigger. 95% of the ship's habitable space is within the primary and secondary hulls, with the outrigger only accessed for non-routine service, containing the deflector dish, long-range sensors, probe bay, and fuel tanks.
Like her predecessor, the Grissom is meant to be easy to operate and maintain, with an engineering staff of just a dozen. This has been accomplished by using off-the-shelf propulsion and life support systems as much as was practical; the ship's warp core and warp coils have been lifted entirely from the Nova-class design and has nearly thirty years of proven service from which enhancements to reliability have been made. Organic engineers are supplemented by a Long-Term Engineering Hologram, which is especially useful in servicing components in the uninhabitable sections of the outrigger.
Speed limitation software also keeps the Grissom easy to maintain, as it has a fixed maximum speed of Warp 8.5. Impulse power is provided by two oversized engines on the stern of the secondary hull, which allow the Grissom to hold position even when close to dangerous and powerful phenomena like black holes and neutron stars.
The Grissom has a single shuttle bay located on the aft end of the primary hull, where it meets the secondary hull. It is capable of carrying only two small shuttles or four shuttle pods. Notably for a ship of this size, the Grissom has six heavy tractor beam emitters placed around the ship, which are used both for standard towing missions and to manipulate objects like asteroids or comets for scientific purposes. Two are located near the center of the secondary hull on the dorsal surface, with direct connections to the ship's main power conduits.
Like the Nova, the Grissom is very well-armed for its size. Having learned its lesson with the Oberth about putting valuable scientific equipment on lightly-defended ships, Starfleet upped the Grissom's weapons and shields significantly, compared to just four light phaser banks on the older ship. Twelve Type-X phaser banks provide comprehensive coverage around the ship, and the Grissom carries a limited number of photon torpedoes. The ship's main asset in combat (which it tries to avoid at all costs, despite these armaments) is its maneuverability. Its weapons allow it to score a few hits while retreating, but a Grissom-class ship will almost invariably flee at the first opportunity.
While smaller ships often have a reputation for being less comfortable than their larger cousins, the Grissom is an exception to this rule. Despite being larger than the Oberth, she carries the same number of crew members, which means that her accommodation standards are higher. Crew are housed in both the primary and secondary hulls, with the majority of personnel having a private cabin with a window. The ship's lounge has large aft-facing windows in the primary hull, and there are two holosuites and a full-size holodeck (which can also be used for scientific simulations). This high standard of living is meant to help ease the stress that comes with long-duration deep space missions, where crews might go months without entering a star system, let alone setting foot on a planet's surface.
Service on a Grissom-class ship means getting access to the best equipment available, and most surfaces are kept gleaming white. Holographic displays supplement traditional LCARS touch interfaces and every compartment is accessible to holograms. Due to these ships' long missions and exposure to dangerous phenomena, they have more medical personnel than most ships of this size. Medical support is provided by a small sickbay module, with a standard medical staff of two doctors and four nurses, as well as a counselor.
A posting to a Grissom-class ship is a prestigious assignment for any scientist specializing in space science, as they have some of the best equipment available for detailed interstellar surveys. During their long missions, crews develop a strong team-based atmosphere and things are often less formal than aboard a larger ship. This level of collegiality is necessary for the rigorous academic debates which shape good science, and captains often encourage it by hosting social functions and colloquia to help their crews stimulate their minds. Being part of a small crew, though, means that interpersonal problems can quickly become difficult to deal with, especially working in close quarters, so crew members are carefully screened for their interpersonal as well as scientific talents. Crew members in departments other than science tend to be relatively junior, with many roles in security, operations, and engineering filled by commissioned officers due to those departments' small sizes.
By the middle of the 24th century, the Oberth was one of the most prolific starship designs ever built. They'd long expanded from being just science vessels to handling multiple utility roles, including cargo transport and scouting duties. Due to her ease of construction, the design was also used as a technological testbed, pioneering systems that would go on to be incorporated into designs like the Galaxy. This design was replaced in the 2370s for planetary survey missions by the more robust Nova-class surveyor, which could also land on planets. Its other duties were gradually taken over by designs like the California and Parliament classes as well, but by the 2390s Starfleet needed a new deep-space surveyor to replace the Oberth for interstellar surveys.
The Oberth was so adept at these surveys that Starfleet Science was insistent that the new design follow the principles of the old one in as many ways as possible, especially with having sensitive scientific equipment held far away from the ship's warp core and other radiation-producing systems. After a lengthy design process, the Grissom was developed as an evolutionary step forward, incorporating new technology into the same basic hull form. The Grissom herself was launched in late 2398. Following a short shakedown cruise, it was judged to be a success, and an initial order for two hundred of these ships was placed.
- While roughly the same size as the Nova (in terms of habitable volume), the Grissom is meant to perform very different missions. The outrigger of the Grissom contains bulky long-range sensing equipment that is intended for mapping missions, while the Nova is adept at studying planets. These two ships complement one another and both are being built at the same time. Occasionally, you'll see either of these classes performing the mission type intended for the other, as they both also have multi-purpose labs aboard.
- Science ships are meant to perform detailed, specific studies more than they're meant to wander around exploring like Starfleet's larger ships. Missions are more focused and so the crew tends to be more specialized.
- These ships' small crew complements make them appropriate for junior commanding officers. Though it's common for their commanding officers to have a scientific background, that's not always necessary with a very experienced science officer, so officers from other tracks might end up in the center seat here.
- The Oberth was very vulnerable in combat situations. The Grissom was built with the realities of the 25th century in mind, so it’s not liable to explode from one hit, but it’s still not a combat vessel.