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Science officers serve in the Science Department on starships or starbases. The head of the department is known as the Chief Science Officer and usually operates the science station on the bridge or Sciences operations center.

Serve in the Science Department on starships or starbases in Starfleet. As the name implies, science officers are responsible for observations, research, and experiments in any of the sciences, including mathematics, statistics, physics (physical and temporal), chemistry, botany, zoology, geology, cosmology, and others. Some science officers specialize in a particular discipline. The department has some overlap with the medical department in terms of microbiology, xenobiology, and life sciences.


Aboard Federation starships/starbases, the crew members responsible for scientific research and investigations and for providing the ship's/base's commanding officer with scientific information needed for command decisions. The Chief Science Officer (CSO) is responsible for overseeing the different science labs/teams under their control and reporting to the commanding officer on a regular basis. The Assistant Chief Science Officer (ACSO) is responsible for aiding the Chief Science Officer in the execution of his/her duties. The Assistant Chief Science Officer is required to assume the role of Chief Science Officer if and when the need arises or if the Chief Science Officer is unable to perform his/her duty adequately.

Science Stations

Science stations on the command decks of Federation starships/starbases are used by science personnel to provide real-time scientific data to command personnel. These stations are not assigned full-time technicians, but are available for use as needed.

In some cases the science stations are used by personnel attached to secondary missions including researchers, mission specialists and others who need to coordinate operations with the bridge/ops. An example of which would be the control of an automated probe , gathering samples from a hazardous area, later requiring specific ship maneuvers in order to successfully recover the probe and its samples.

Individual Science stations are generally configured for independent operation, but can be linked together when two researchers wish to work cooperatively. The primary science stations on the command deck have priority links to Conn, Ops and Tactical. During Alert status, science stations can have priority access to sensor arrays, if necessary overriding ongoing science department observations and other secondary missions upon approval by the Operations Manager (OPS).

The Science I station incorporates an isolinear chip matrix panel that permits specialized mission profile programs to be loaded as needed, and also permits investigators to accumulate data for later study.

Science Station Functions

Primary functions of Science stations include:

  • The ability to provide access to sensors and interpretive software for primary mission and command intelligence requirements and to supplement Ops in providing real-time scientific data for command decision making support.
  • The ability to act as a command post for coordination of activities of various science laboratories and other departments, as well as for monitoring of secondary mission status.
  • The ability to reconfigure and recalibrate sensor systems at a moment's notice for specific command intelligence requirements.

Science & Remote Sensing Systems

Sensor Systems

There are three primary sensor systems aboard Federation starships/starbases. The first is the long-range sensor array. This package of high-power devices is designed to sweep far ahead of the ship's flight path, or the starbase's orbit, to gather navigational and scientific information.

The second major sensor group is the lateral arrays. These include the forward, port and starboard arrays on the primary hull as well as the port, starboard and aft arrays on the Secondary hull. Additionally, there are smaller upper and lower sensor arrays located around the ship/base to provide coverage in the lateral arrays' blind spots.

The final major group is the navigational sensors. These dedicated sensors are tied directly into the ship's/base's Flight Control systems and are used to determine the ship's location and velocity. On the starbase they are used to control flight operations in much the same way as 20th century air traffic control systems controlled the movement of aircraft.

In addition, there are several packages of special-purpose and engineering sensors such as the subspace flow sensors located at various points on the ship's/base's skin.

Long-Range Sensors

The most powerful scientific instruments aboard Federation vessels are probably those located in the long-range sensor array. This cluster of high-power active and passive subspace frequency sensors is located in the Engineering Hull directly behind the main deflector dish.

The majority of instruments in the long-range array are active scan subspace devices, which permit information gathering at speeds greatly exceeding that of light. Maximum effective range of this array is approximately five light years in high-resolution mode. Operation in medium-to-low resolution mode yields a usable range of approximately 17 light years (depending on instrument type). At this range, a sensor scan pulse transmitted at Warp 9.9997 would take approximately forty-five minutes to reach its destination and another forty-five minutes for the signal to return. Standard scan protocols permit comprehensive study of approximately one adjacent sector per day at this rate. Within the confines of a solar system, the long-range sensor array is capable or providing nearly instantaneous information.

Primary instruments in the long-range array include:

  • Wide-angle active EM scanner
  • Narrow-angle active EM scanner
  • 2 meter diameter gamma ray telescope
  • Variable frequency EM flux sensor
  • Lifeform analysis instrument cluster
  • Parametric subspace field stress sensor
  • Gravimetric distortion scanner
  • Passive neutrino imaging scanner
  • Thermal imaging array

These devices are located in a series of eight instrument bays directly behind the main deflector. Direct power taps from primary electro plasma system (EPS) conduits are available for high-power instruments such as the passive neutrino imaging scanner. The main deflector emitter screen includes perforated zones designed to be transparent for sensor use, although the subspace field stress and gravimetric distortion sensors cannot yield usable data when the deflector is operating at more than 55% of maximum rated power. Within these instrument bays, fifteen mount points are nominally unassigned and are available for mission-specific investigations or future upgrades. All instrument bays share the use of the navigational deflector's three subspace field generators providing the subspace flux potential allowing transmission of sensor impulses at warp speeds.

The long-range sensor array is designed to scan in the direction of flight, and it is routinely used to search for possible flight hazards such as micrometeoroids or other debris. This operation is managed by the Flight Control Officer under automated control. When small particulates or other minor hazards are detected, the main deflector is automatically instructed to sweep the objects from the vessel's flight path. The scan range and degree of deflection vary with the ship's velocity. In the event that larger objects are detected, automatic minor changes in flight path can avoid potentially dangerous collisions. In such cases, the computer will notify the Flight Control Officer of the situation and offer the opportunity for manual intervention if possible.

Navigational Sensors

Federation starship systems constantly process incoming sensor data and routinely perform billions of calculations each second to solve the problem of interstellar navigation.

Sensors provide the input; the navigational processors within the main computers reduce the incessant stream of impulses into useable position and velocity data. The specific navigational sensors being polled at any instant will depend on the current flight situation. If the starship is in orbit about a known celestial object, such as a planet in a charted star system, many long-range sensors will be inhibited, and short-range devices will be favoured. If the ship is cruising in interstellar space, the long-range sensors are selected and a majority of the short-range sensors are powered down. As with an organic system, the computers are not overwhelmed by a barrage of sensory information.

The 350 navigational sensor assemblies are, by design, isolated from extraneous cross-links with other general sensor arrays. This isolation provides more direct impulse pathways to the computers for rapid processing, especially at high warp velocities, where minute directional errors, in hundredths of an arc-second per light year, could result in impact with a star, planet or asteroid. In certain situations. selected cross-links may be created in order to filter out system discrepancies flagged by the main computer.

Each standard suite of navigational sensors includes:

  • Quasar Telescope
  • Wide-angle IR Source Tracker
  • Narrow-angle IR-UV-Gamma Ray Imager
  • Passive Subspace Multibeacon Receiver
  • Stellar Graviton Detectors
  • High-Energy Charged Particle Detectors
  • Galactic Plasma Wave Cartographic Processor
  • Federation Timebase Beacon Receiver
  • Stellar Pair Coordinate Imager

The navigational system within the main computers accepts sensor input at adaptive data rates, mainly tied to the ship's true velocity within the galaxy. The subspace fields within the computers, which maintain faster-than-light (FTL) processing, attempt to provide at least 30% higher proportional energies than those required to drive the spacecraft, in order to maintain a safe collision-avoidance margin. If the FTL processing power drops below 20% over propulsion, general mission rules dictate a commensurate drop in warp motive power to bring the safety level back up. Specific situations and resulting courses of action within the computer will determine the actual procedures, and special navigation operating rules are followed during emergency and combat conditions.

Sensor pallets dedicated to navigation, as with certain tactical and propulsion systems, undergo preventative maintenance and swapout on a more frequent schedule than other science-related equipment, owing to the critical nature of their operation. Healthy components are normally removed after 65-70% of their established lifetimes. This allows additional time for component refurbishment, and a larger performance margin if swapout is delayed by mission conditions or periodic spares unavailability. Rare detector materials, or those hardware components requiring long manufacturing lead times, are found in the quasar telescope (shifted frequency aperture window and beam combiner focus array), wide angle IR source tracker (cryogenic thin-film fluid recirculator), and galactic plasma wave cartographic processor (fast Fourier transform subnet). A 6% spares supply exists for these devices, deemed acceptable for the foreseeable future, compared to a 15% spares supply for other sensors.

Lateral Sensor Arrays

Federation starships/starbases are equipped wit the most extensive array of sensor equipment available. The spacecraft/base exterior incorporates a number of large sensor arrays providing ample instrument positions and optimal three-axis coverage.

Each sensor array is composed of a continuous rack in which are mounted a series of individual sensor instrument pallets. These sensor pallets are modules designed for easy replacement and updating on instrumentation. Approximately two-thirds of all pallet positions are occupied by standard Starfleet science sensor packages, but the remaining positions are available for mission-specific instrumentation. Sensor array pallets provide microwave power feed, optical data net links, cryogenic coolant feeds, and mechanical mounting points. Also provided are four sets of instrumentation steering servo clusters and two data subprocessor computers.

The standard Starfleet science sensor complement consists of a series of six pallets, which include the following devices:

  • Pallet #1
    • Wide-angle EM radiation imaging scanner
    • Quark population analysis counter
    • Z-range particulate spectrometry sensor
  • Pallet #2
    • High-energy proton spectrometry cluster
    • Gravimetric distortion mapping scanner
  • Pallet #3
    • Steerable lifeform analysis instrument cluster
  • Pallet #4
    • Active magnetic interferometry scanner
    • Low-frequency EM flux sensor
    • Localized subspace field stress sensor
    • Parametric subspace field stress sensor
    • Hydrogen-filter subspace flux scanner
    • Linear calibration subspace flux sensor
  • Pallet #5
    • Variable band optical imaging cluster
    • Virtual aperture graviton flux spectrometer
    • High-resolution graviton flux spectrometer
    • Very low energy graviton spin polarimeter
  • Pallet #6
    • Passive imaging gamma interferometry sensor
    • Low-level thermal imaging sensor
    • Fixed angle gamma frequency counter
    • Virtual particle mapping camera

The standard Starfleet sensor complement comprises twenty-four semi-redundant suites of these six standard sensor pallets. These 144 pallets are distributed on the Primary Hull and Secondary Hull lateral arrays. The instrumentation is located to maximize redundant coverage. A total of 284 pallet positions are available on both hulls.

The upper and lower sensor platforms provide coverage in very high and very low vertical elevation zones. These arrays employ a more limited subset of the standard Starfleet instrument package.

In addition to standard Starfleet instruments, mission-specific investigations frequently require nonstandard instruments that can be installed into one or more of the 140 nondedicated sensor pallets. When such devices are relatively small, such installation can be accomplished from service access ports inside the spacecraft.

Installation of larger devices must be accomplished by extravehicular activity. A number of personnel airlocks are located in the sensor strip bays for this purpose. If a device is sufficiently large, or if installation entails replacement of one or more entire sensor pallets, a shuttlepod can be used for extravehicular equipment handling.


The detailed examination of many objects and phenomena in the galaxy can be handled routinely by the ship's/station's onboard sensor arrays, up to the resolution limits of the individual instruments and to the limits of available data extraction algorithms used in extrapolating values from combinations on instrument readings. Greater proportions of high-resolution data of selected sites can be gathered using close approaches by instrumented probe spacecraft. These probes are generally sized to fit the fore and aft torpedo launchers, providing rapid times-to-target. Three larger classes of autonomous probes are based upon existing shuttlecraft spaceframes that have been stripped of all personnel support systems and then densely packed with sensor and telemetry hardware.

See Also: Federation Sensor Probes


The standard tricorder is a portable sensing, computing, and data communications device developed by Starfleet R&D and issued to starship/starbase crew members. It incorporates miniaturised versions of those scientific instruments found to be most useful for both shipboard and away missions, and its capabilities may be augmented with mission-specific peripherals. Its many functions may be accessed by touch-sensitive controls or, if necessary, voice command.

For a more detailed description see also: Tricorder

Science Department OPS

Starships are equipped to support a number of research teams whose assignments are designed to take advantage of the fact that the ship is a mobile research platform whose assignments will take it through a very large volume of space. Such secondary research missions typically include stellar mapping and observation projects, planetary surveys, interstellar medium studies, cultural and lifeform studies.

These secondary mission teams must necessarily focus their work on stars and planets near primary mission sites, but the broad operating range of starships makes these extraordinary opportunities to study a large number of celestial objects. As with other investigative teams, secondary research projects are generally developed by Starfleet researchers or affiliated university and industrial scientists, and assigned to starships for either short-term or ongoing investigations.

Starships in extended mission configurations include facilities to support approximately twenty specialised mission teams, depending on team sizes and types of investigations being conducted. These facilities include living accommodations for up to 225 people, as well as nonspecialised laboratory and work spaces that can be configured for specific investigator requirements. Additionally, some forty sensor pallet assignments on the lateral arrays are reserved for mission-specific instrumentation, which can be installed and modified as needed. Similarly, some fifteen instrument mounting positions within the long-range array cluster are available for mission-specific investigations.

Each individual department or investigation team is responsible for the operation of its own observations and experiments. Because secondary mission investigations are by definition subordinate to primary mission requirements, these teams must remain flexible in their operations. Nonetheless, each department or team is responsible for providing a regular update of operational preferences to the Operations Manager (OPS) so that the daily mission profiles can be designed to satisfy as many departmental needs as possible.

Organisational Chart for Typical Science Department

Organizational Chart