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The runabouts in Deep Space Nine sometimes have additional equipment on their backs; this is a screenshot from S02E15 (Paradise), showing the Orinoco in the background with the unknown equipment & the Rio Grande in the foreground with a clean configuration:Screenshot from Paradise

What is the equipment & why is it only sometimes present?

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The Star Trek Encyclopedia makes mention of a "roll bar" added to the USS Ganges runabout model. This was apparently an additional sensor array. We can reasonably assume that the same feature on the Orinoco was intended for the same use.

From an out-of-universe perspective it was simply so that viewers would know, at a glance, which of the (otherwise identical) runabouts they were looking at.

Capture of USS Ganges article in Star Trek Encyclopedia

In that episode, it sported a "roll bar" that contained sensor equipment. From a visual-effects standpoint, the purpose of the roll bar was to make it easier to tell the Ganges from the Yangtze Kiang in that episode's chase sequence.

  • They're swappable for mission-specific requirements. Weapons modules are also available, if I remember right. – pleurocoelus Mar 13 '16 at 8:41
  • @pleurocoelus - I've seen that, but only on fan-sites. Can you provide some evidence? – Valorum Mar 13 '16 at 8:48
  • Thus the "if I remember right" part. I believe it was in the DS9 Technical Manual, which a friend of mine had, but that was years ago that I read it. – pleurocoelus Mar 13 '16 at 8:52
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    @pleurocoelus - The swappable components mention in the DS9 Technical Manual relate to the crew compartment in the back. There are a range of different modules that can simply be slid into place; lab modules, power generators and sensor packages. Those aren't the rollbar on the top, they're mounted inside the runabout itself. – Valorum Mar 13 '16 at 9:07
  • Thanks. As I said, it was years ago... the mind is the first to go. – pleurocoelus Mar 13 '16 at 9:16

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