The Danube-class grew out of a series of studies by the Advanced Starship Design Bureau which began in 2363 to create a small versatile vessel for use in a wide range of missions. The final design for the Danube-class conducted flight tests which were so successful the class went into immediate production, with the first ships of the class entering service in 2368. The first batch of Danube-class ships were assigned as support craft to Deep Space 9 where they, and later replacements, served with distinction for many notable missions. (ST reference: Starship Spotter)
The Utopia Planitia Yards served as the primary Danube-class construction facility with three other sites set up to continue production of the class and spare parts for existing vessels after the first production run at Utopia Planitia. By the late 2370s the Advanced Starship Design Bureau was developing successors for the class while Starfleet continued to build more of this very successful class. (ST reference: Starship Spotter; DS9 reference: Technical Manual)
The Danube-class was designed as a multi-use vessel with potential missions including scientific research, personnel and supply transfer, a base of operations for missions from orbit or landed and as a support craft for larger vessels on other missions. (ST reference: Starship Spotter)
To achieve this versatility the Danube-class featured a modular design with the aft section being swappable for mission specific modules, such as a more spacious passenger module to accommodate a larger crew or passengers or modules containing specialised scientific equipment. These exchangeable components consisted of the aft-most living compartment or cargo section and the central multimission module pack. The central section could be configured with either one larger mono-load section, or combinations of half-load modules and up to four quarter-load modules. (ST reference: Starship Spotter; DS9 reference: Technical Manual)
The exterior of the vessel could also be altered to best fit a mission with strap on equipment pods including specialized communications equipment, sensors or weapons. (ST reference: Starship Spotter)
The class' cockpit also functioned as an independent module which could be detached in the case of emergencies and continue in space flight or make an emergency planetary landing.
The Danube-class' armaments as standard consisted of six phaser strips. Additionally extendable microtorpedo launcher modules could be fitted under the cockpit to fire microtorpedoes. Up to four standard photon or quantum torpedoes could also be fired from the optional multirole module. (DS9 reference: Technical Manual; DS9 episode: "Past Prologue", et al.)
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