The Nova-class was a type of surveyor starship in service to the Federation Starfleet in the late 24th century.

The Nova-class was originally planned as a future supplement or extension of the Galaxy-class explorer, with few of the military capabilities of the Galaxy, and become more of a dedicated research and exploration vessel. However, following the conclusion of the Federation-Cardassian War in the mid-2360s, Starfleet Command scrapped those initial plans and tasked the Nova Class Design Project with designing an as-yet-undetermined smaller design of starship.

Around that same time, the Advanced Starship Design Bureau were working on designs for the proposed Defiant-class warship, and several of the more traditional designs were rejected for various reasons. Fortunately, members of the Nova design team came across some of the shelved Defiant designs and realized that one of them, a small vessel with an arrow-shaped saucer section and two dorsal nacelle pylons, was perfect for the team's needs. With only the slightest modifications, the design was soon approved by Starfleet Command as the new Nova-class starship.

Due to the Nova-class' mission profile, they were equipped with some of the most advanced scientific systems, including dedicated biological and astronomical laboratories. However, the Nova's had limited propulsion, weapons and crew support systems, making it unsuitable for long-duration missions. (Ship Recognition Manual, Volume 1: The Ships of Starfleet)

Its spaceframe was based on a design submitted by then Commander Gedna Tachion for the Defiant class in 2367. (Star Trek: Lionhearted: "New Orders")

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