The experimental Zodiac class used since the middle of the 24th century belongs, as well as the Olympic class, to one of the first projects of the Alternative Spacecraft Technologies group (AST) put into practice, being designed as a deep space explorer. Due to the restricted size, capacity and equipment of these ships, the class doesn't replace the rather old Constellation class vessels, but it sensibly supplements them by a armament which is very heavy for a deep space explorer and propulsion systems that are far superior to the Constellation class. Actually, the Zodiac class and the related technological developments already originated in the year 2340, when the Alternative Spacecraft Technologies group (AST) was set up by the ASDB in order to test new ways in starship design, that completely differ from the established classic starships with a round, flat saucer section and a primary section connected to its bottom, firstly by theoretical design studies and computer models, later by experimental prototypes. The Olympic, Zodiac and Cora projects were the first three projects intended to be probably used in active service some time. While the Olympic project, that was adjusted to supply missions, contained a spherical saucer design, which has proven with the Daedalus class in the 22th century, but seemed to be inapplicable for high-warp vessels, the Zodiac project was intented to have a toroid saucer section beside the rarely used double-pair configuration of the warp nacelles that is advantageous for deep space explorers, and the Cora project, an escort type, an elongated triangular saucer. Unfortunately, the latter project had be cancelled already in 2344 insurmountable problems with the warp field geometry, however, the prototype construction of the Olympic project could be started in the following year, and after many difficulties and the addition of an extended offensive potential to the specifications in 2346 due to the Cardassian threat, the construction of the Zodiac class prototype finally started in 2347. Having been built within 4 years in the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, the USS Zodiac was comissioned in 2351, which offered as a small, but technologically advanced deep space explorer, along with 2 additional ships of the class completed three years later, fascinating possibilities for the exploration of deep space.
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