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 USS Nogura 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 manned by the top officers of each department except for Engineering and Medical. 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 two others, typically including the first officer. 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 forward holo-communications platform. Typically, the armrests of the captain’s chair feature miniaturized status displays. Using keyboard or vocal commands, the captain can use these controls to override the basic operation of the starship.
The 24th century Flight Operations position, also referred to as the Conn, evolved from the 23rd century helm and navigation positions. The officer manning the Flight Operations console is responsible for the actual piloting and navigation of the starship. Despite many of these functions being heavily automated, their critical nature 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 engineering department. 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. 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.
The bridge station dedicated to defensive systems control and starship internal security is Tactical Operations. Parts of the default control layout presents the Tactical Operations officer with information readouts dealing with the internal protection of the starship and its crew. A wide variety of starship defensive systems are available to the Chief Tactical Operations officer, ranging from the defensive shields to phaser and torpedo systems, as well as intrusion detection systems. Other systems that may be commanded by Tactical include communications, long- and short-range sensor arrays, sensor probes, message buoys, and tractor beam devices.
Key to the ships mission as an explorer in the Gamma Quadrant 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.
Every Starfleet bridge also includes several supportive consoles and backup stations. These may include consoles for Engineering, Mission Ops and Environmental Control. 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.
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 Nogura is fully interactive and can be configured to show the schematics and damage of any vessel it scans, if data is successfully provided.