The bridge is the starship equivalent of an operations center or command center. On Starfleet ships, it is generally located near the top and front of a vessel. From here, the commanding officers supervise all ship’s operations, ranging from vessel course control to tactical systems.
On the Polaris-class USS Ulysses, the bridge is the focal point of the ‘Bridge Module’ which is located on top of the vessel’s primary hull and takes up most of deck 1. The bridge is the nerve-center of every starship, and it is usually manned by the top officers of each department except for Engineering and Medical, who are present at their discretion and in line with their duties at the time. There is typically an engineering station that the Chief Engineer can use when on the bridge, as well as science stations that the science officer or chief medical officers can use. Most bridges on Starfleet vessels were replaceable modules, so that adaptation for special missions or upgrading was expedited.
The bridge command stations, located in the command arena in the centre of the bridge, provide seating and information displays for the commanding officer and her executive officer, as well as a third officer (that often includes the Counsellor, CMO, Diplomatic officers or mission advisors). The command chairs are located in the center of the bridge, to maximize interaction with all key bridge personnel, while permitting an unobstructed view of the main viewscreen and holo-communications projectors. Typically, the consoles to the side of the second and third chairs features a miniaturized status display and other command functions. Using keyboard or vocal commands, the CO can also use controls in the arm of her chair to override the basic operation of the starship.
Due to the nature of the ship’s mission, the Ulysses has expanded its bridge stations which has seen a return of the previously defunct Navigation Officer role. Located at the front of the bridge, alongside the Flight Operations position, Navigation is once again a prominent starship duty station. The Navigation Officer, or Navigator, works very closely with the Conn Officer of a starship with their primary duties being to plot courses, taking into account such phenomenon as the effects of quasars, nebulae, tachyon eddies and the gravitational effects of planets. They are required to constantly review Starfleet databanks for any hazards to navigation that might exist in the space ahead of the ship. They are also in charge of updating all stellar charts via astrometrics and liaising with Stellar Cartography. The officer at Navigation is also in charge of plotting and maintaining the course of the ship when the Quantum Slipstream Drive is enabled. The 24th century Flight Operations position, also referred to as the Conn, is where the ship is piloted and the use of auxiliary craft managed. The critical nature of their role (even with the Navigations Officer present) demands a humanoid officer to oversee these operations at all times. During spaceflight at impulse, Conn is responsible for monitoring relativistic effects as well the inertial damping system status. When traveling at warp speed, Conn is required to monitor the subspace field geometry in parallel with the navigation and engineering departments. During warp flight, the Conn console continually updates the long-range sensor data and makes automatic course corrections to adjust for minor variations in the density of the interstellar medium.
Many shipboard operations involve scheduling resources or hardware that affect a number of departments. In many such cases, it is common for various operations to present conflicting requirements. It is the responsibility of the operations officer to coordinate such activities so that mission goals are not jeopardized. The operations position, also known simply as Ops, evolved from older 23rd century positions. The bulk of the duties held by the helm and navigation positions were combined into the Conn position before being split once again in the late 23rd century for the larger, newer and more complicated vessels such as the Polaris-class. Other functions of the helm panel, such as internal systems control, became the purview of Ops, as well as some communications and sensor system usages. The Ops panel presents the operations officer with a continually updated list of current major shipboard activities. This list permits Ops to set priorities and allocate resources among current operations. This is especially critical in cases where two or more requests require the use of the same equipment, entail mutually exclusive mission profiles, or involve some unusual safety or tactical considerations.
Key to the ships mission as an explorer is the science division, so it is no surprise that there is a large area of the bridge dedicated to science consoles. From these consoles, the Chief Science Officer can oversee the functions of all of their sub-departments and even utilize them from the bridge itself. Linguistics, bioscience, stellar cartography, sensor readings, planetary science and probe control are usually the standard science uses on the bridge. There is a dedicated Science station position in the command circle which enables the officer to have easier, direct input in all discussions and situations.
The bridge station directly behind the command arena and embedded into an elegantly curved console actually houses two key stations. Dedicated to defensive systems control and starship internal security, this entire console is known as Tactical Operations. Parts of the default control layout presents the Strategic Operations officer (formally Tactical officer) with a wide variety of starship defensive systems, ranging from the defensive shields to phaser and torpedo systems. Other systems that may be commanded by Strategic Operations include communications, long- and short-range sensor arrays, sensor probes, message buoys, and tractor beam devices. The second console is a configurable mission operations station which, more often than not, is manned by the Chief of Security. Here, information readouts dealing with the internal protection of the starship and its crew are provided, along with the ability to deploy and monitor teams effectively, whether on or off ship. The station can also be configured for use by Intelligence, Marine or Starfighter personnel as required.
Every Starfleet bridge also includes several supportive consoles and backup stations. These may include consoles for Engineering, Mission Ops, Environmental Control and the Sciences. Most of these are meant to relieve the senior bridge officers of secondary duties during alert and crisis situations. Mission Ops provides additional support to the operations officer, and is specifically responsible for monitoring activity relating to secondary missions. Mission Ops is responsible for assignment of resources and priorities according to guidelines specified by the operations officer and by operating protocols. This station is also responsible for monitoring away teams. The Environmental Control console provides similar relief to the operations officer, monitoring the starship’s life support systems. Due to the highly automated nature of these systems, this console would be unattended under normal circumstances, but becomes of crucial importance during alert situations to maximize crew survivability. All of these are accessible at several configurable stations on the port and starboard sides of the bridge.
The bridge’s Engineering station duplicates (in simplified form) the Chief Engineer’s primary status displays from Main Engineering. The purpose of this station is to permit the Chief Engineer to maintain supervision over the engineering system while on the bridge. The Engineer also has access to the MSD on the aft bulkhead of the bridge. On Federation starships and space stations, the master systems display (abbreviated MSD), also known as the master situation monitor, or master situational display, is a large, wall-mounted computer display usually featuring a large cutaway diagram of the vessel, and is used to provide a detailed overview of the ship’s operational status. The MSD on the Ulysses is fully interactive and can be configured to show the schematics and damage of any vessel it scans, if data is successfully provided.
Main Bridge Layout (Image 2)
1. Commanding Officer
2. Executive Officer
3. Counsellor/Mission Advisor
4. Flight Operations
8. Strategic Operations
9. Mission Operations/Security
10. Master Systems Display and Engineering
11. Operations II
12. Science II
13. Engineering II
14. Science III
15. Engineering III
16. Navigation II
17. Forward Turbolift
18. Commanding Officer’s Ready Room
19. Observation Lounge and Deck 1
20. Starboard Aft Turbolift
21. Jefferies Tube Access
22. Viewscreen and Holographic Communications System