The light orbital observatory and relay platform, popularly referred to as the Argus by those who first developed it, is a subtype of a prevalent Starfleet stationary design, the subspace communications relay. First introduced in the mid 2300s, the relay was an uncomplicated, resource-cheap and easily manufactured mini-installation that could be easily upgraded with the latest in macro-processing communications systems and the most powerful analytical and signal maintenance computers.
The communications relay was, however, an easy target, as proven time and time again during the Dominion War and the early days of the renewed hostilities between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. In all, several dozen were lost with all hands in little more than the blink of an eye, their shields and other defences unable to withstand even the weakest ship-mounted weaponry mounted on enemy vessels. Starfleet, naturally, chose to remove such relays from the front lines and refit full starbases and outposts with the necessary technology to perform the same tasks. If such was not possible, then Starfleet did its best to reinforce the area.
The failings of the relay aside, however, it proved to be a most adaptable design during the worst days of the prevailing conflicts. Certainly, Starfleet would not consider completely outfitting such an installation with powerful weaponry and shields, as such a decision would render the relay redundant as anything other than a deep space weapons platform with limited tactical capability, but it did give some thought to refitting the class with newer shields and some degree of defensive armament.
This project had not yet got under way – it had not even passed the second design oversight stage – when one of Starfleet’s premier system defence and control facilities, Starbase 60 in the Ninth Fleet, made it known that several of its local Calder System’s celestial bodies warranted further attention. To be more accurate, the bodies needed more attention than the Ithaca Class base and its attendant Wallace Class patrol vessel, the USS Persephone, could devote to them. Under normal circumstances, Starfleet would have simply deployed a surveyor such as a Nova, Oberth, Drake or even a Daystrom to the system and base it out of Starbase 60 for the duration of its mission, but some designers saw this as the perfect opportunity to prove to Command the full extent of the relay’s versatility.
Working closely with the staff of Starbase 60, the project’s designers quickly discerned the abilities and functions that would be required of the modified station. They then set to work, doing as promised, namely, adapting the relay with existing technology that was inexpensive in terms of materials, time and effort. Due to the simplistic nature of the relay’s normal mechanics, re-engineering it to other purposes was remarkably easy. The impressive communication receivers and transmitters were removed completely, replaced by ultra-accurate sensor nodes and advanced secondary data analysers. The relay’s signal maintenance computer was left in place but retasked towards sorting through all of the incoming information into pre-set categories that additional compositers would begin to deal with before manual examination of the data.
The relay’s main communication systems were literally ripped out of its hull to make room for the variant station’s new sensors. In truth, the sensors did not consume as much internal volume as the relay’s earlier “occupants,” yet they were nonetheless exceptionally adept at what they were designed to do. Based on the high-powered scanners of the Daystrom Class, the relay’s new sensors could cut through vast quantities of atmospheric and environmental disruptions to get an eagle-eye view. Although these sensors could be used to scan surrounding space, this was a limited capacity only, as the mechanisms involved were directional in nature so as to reduce their size and levels of power consumption.
To complement the station’s new “eyes,” a single science laboratory was installed in the recently vacated auxiliary transmission buffer chamber. In all actuality, though, referring to this addition as a laboratory was a misnomer, as the room was little more than a nexus for the reams upon reams of incoming data. Computer consoles and displays lined all of the walls and only two people could be facilitated at their work stations at any one time.
This addition coincided with alterations to the station’s habitation and control facilities. In its original form, the relay had been adequately equipped to house and maintain two Starfleet personnel for months at a time. In the case of the Calder System, however, the requirements were not the same. It was estimated that personnel would remain on the station for no more than a handful of weeks at a time, if that, before being transported back to Starbase 60 while other people were cycled in to replace them. As such, the design team chose to augment the living arrangements in exchange for losing approximately 50% of the relay’s original life-sustaining capabilities. Energy reserves were reduced significantly and several redundant life support systems were removed to allow for the expansion of crew numbers from two people to six. The design team felt that the benefits of having more than a couple of personnel to handle the scientific operation would be more effective than leaving the removed systems in place, a feeling that Starfleet Command concurred with.
Unlike previous relays, the station to be constructed in the Calder System was to have standard shielding and some weaponry. Thanks to improvements in related technologies and equipment, the new station’s shields were not dissimilar to those employed on the Nova Class, a structure of much greater size. They were not, however, powered by the same energy source and were projected by a sole generator. In the event of a hostile encounter or disastrous natural phenomena, such shields could be swiftly overpowered. The station’s weaponry, likewise, was not considered to be the most effective for a facility of the modified relay’s size. As a scientific installation, Starfleet felt that reducing the station’s capacity to explore strange new worlds with heavy armaments was not an acceptable course of action. Consequently, the relay was outfitted with just a pair of Type VII phaser banks with active power reserves that could be drained in a little less than two minutes of continual fire. The relay was also fitted with a retractable weapons pod. Ironically, this tactical innovation was converted to do little more than launch probes. Mounted on one side of the station, it has an excellent field of fire in the event of imminent catastrophic asteroid impacts or the like, allowing it to use its complement of two photon torpedoes to safeguard the facility. Under other circumstances, the warheads could instead be used to clear areas of planetary surfaces of unessential natural obstacles.
The first of the variant relays was built and deployed in the Calder System, overseen and operated by the personnel of Starbase 60. It is not, however, expected that the new station will only see service in the Samuel’s Nebula area. Thanks to recent advances, many among Starfleet Command envisage the station conducting detailed observations of inhospitable worlds, Class Y planets and even stars. As such, metaphasic shields were an extravagance allowed by Command. These and the station’s impressive sensors were equipped in the hopes that facilities of the Argus subclass could be deployed in environs to which Starfleet formerly feared to send anyone for anything other than the briefest periods of time. For their part, the station’s engineers proved what they had set out to do, namely, that the relay was a highly serviceable design worthy of being the basis for even more variant projects.
The torpedo armament of the Argus resides in a retractable pod similar to that on the Ithaca. The docking port comprises the Argus’ shuttlebay.
|Category||Orbital Scientific Observatory Base|
|Phasers||Type VII Array: 2|
|Shielding Systems||Metaphasic Shielding|
Standard Shielding System
|Torpedoes||Photon Torpedo Launcher|
- Photon Torpedoes: 2
|1||Secondary Sensor Array, Manoeuvring Thrusters|
|2||Auxiliary Computer Core, Auxiliary Communications Array|
|3||Fusion Reactor (Level 1), Maintenance Room 1|
|4||Fusion Reactor (Level 2), Power Distribution Centre|
|6||Communications Array, Ancillary Sensor Nodes|
|7||Lateral Sensors, Reserve Energy Store|
|8||Port Phaser Bank, Starboard Phaser Bank, Upper Operations, Manoeuvring Thrusters|
|9||Lower Operations, Crew Quarters, Escape Pods (2)|
|10||Crew Quarters, Science Lab, Transporter Room|
|11||Docking Port, Main Computer Core (Level 1)|
|12||Shield Generator, Main Computer Core (Level 2)|
|13||Retractable Weapons Pod, Probe Storage|
|14||Torpedo Storage, Waste Management|
|15||Primary Sensor Array (Level 1), Auxiliary Sensor Controls|
|16||Primary Sensor Array (Level 2), Maintenance Room 2|
|17||Primary Sensor Array (Level 3), Directional Network Systems|
|18||Primary Sensor Array (Level 4), Manoeuvring Thrusters|