Say that I am a citizen of the Federation, but am not a member of Starfleet. Is there any way that I can legally obtain a Federation-made starship of my own? If so, what is the best type of starship I can obtain (I presume that the Enterprise is not available)? And how do I go about obtaining it, since money doesn't exist and presumably there are a limited number available?

To be clear, I am wondering about legitimate means of getting a starship, so theft or some sort of black market dealings are not an option.

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    If they had something valuable they could trade it for one. Sep 7, 2016 at 4:20
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    the Ferengi would gladly do business with you, see what you can get for some self-sealing stembolts. Also - assuming you are talking about legitimate transactions - not like Thomas Riker stealing the Defiant
    – NKCampbell
    Sep 7, 2016 at 4:20
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    “I presume that the Enterprise is not available” — I can do you a great deal on a very lightly-damaged Enterprise-D. Buyer collects. Sep 7, 2016 at 11:12
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    By "Federation-made starship" do you mean the types of vessels we typically see operated by Starfleet, or any spaceship built within the Federation? Sep 7, 2016 at 11:58
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    @zabeus While the types of vessels typically operated by Starfleet would be preferred, I realize that most of them aren't fit for civilian use (e.g. finding enough people to operate a Galaxy-class starship would be tough). Let's suppose that I'm looking for any spaceship build within the Federation, but the closer to the kind used in Starfleet, the better. I'm not looking for a Ferengi garbage hauler, for instance. Sep 7, 2016 at 15:14

4 Answers 4


You can obtain a Federation-made ship for research purposes from non-Starfleet organizations.

The Voyager episode Dark Frontier shows a series of flashbacks giving the back story of Seven's parents. In the first one, it details how they got their ship.

Field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32611.4. It's about time. The Federation Council on Exobiology has given us final approval. Starfleet's still concerned about security issues but they've agreed not to stand in our way. We've said our goodbyes, and we're ready to start chasing our theories about the Borg.

The line about Starfleet having security concerns about the plan implies that neither the Hansen's nor the Council were part of Starfleet.

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    Doesn’t USS imply that it’s a Starfleet vessel that they’re borrowing?
    – RoboKaren
    Jul 9, 2018 at 10:36

There are no explicit instances I know of where a Federation citizen in the TNG+ era owns a ship. Though the majority of DS9 doesn't deal with Federation space and Voyager not at all so you can't measure based on how often they turn up in those series.

However, there are a number times in TNG that there might be instances of privately owned ships, but none of them have a clear standing and are usually in the hands of people that may not be citizens or may have acquired them illegaly, like the Maquis who are private citizen and own ships, but they are criminals thus may not have gotten their ships legally.

Before TNG there there are a few instances. Harry Mudd for example privately owns ships and from what is said in those episodes it is clear that there are laws governing private ships.

I don't see any reason those laws would have changed in 80 years so it is more likely that our focus in the universe just never crosses privately owned ship in the TNG+ era.

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    "Harry Mudd for example privately owns ships ..." -- or rather, Leo Walsh did. Sep 7, 2016 at 7:24
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    I think Kasidy Yates is a Federation citizen, and she (or at least the freight company she owns) has at least one ship. Doesn’t look like a Starfleet ship though. Sep 7, 2016 at 11:10
  • @PaulD.Waite Yeah, but like with Alarion's answers, these ships could still be owned by the Federation and they have just requisitioned control of them for the time being so while it might be the case of private ownership, it's not explicit, just like the Maquis ships.
    – Durakken
    Sep 7, 2016 at 11:21
  • @Durakken: very true. (Also it might, apparently, have been owned at one point by the Petarians, whoever they are.) Sep 7, 2016 at 11:58

Yes, depending on one's definition of "Starship".

I think that it is possible for private Federation citizens to legally more or less own or possess space ships that fit (1) but not (2):

  • 1) Common and usual definition: A space ship that travels interstellar distances, usually with a FTL drive.
  • 2) TOS-era definition: A top of the line Starfleet space ship. Starships seem to be multi-purpose vessels as powerful as the top military vessels in Starfleet and with all the labs of a top science vessel. Starships are used for exploration, patrolling, diplomacy, emergency response, scientific research, and running routine errands.

This exchange in "Bread and Circuses" delineates between the the two.

KIRK: I've had to select men to die before so that others could be saved.

CLAUDIUS: You're a clever liar, Captain Kirk. Merikus was a spaceship captain. I've observed him thoroughly. Your species has no such strength.

MERIK: He commands not just a spaceship, Proconsul, but a Starship. A very special vessel and crew. I tried for such a command.


Merik clearly makes a distinction between an interstellar spaceship - a starship by the first definition - and a Starfleet starship.

Further, in the era of TNG another definition which seems to be stricter than (1) and looser than (2) exists (at least based on fan discussions which assume that every class of Starfleet ship is a starship) - The research vessel Vico in "Hero Worship" may have been such a Starfleet vessel.

Another example from TNG: The Odin in "Angel One" was a freighter and the crew claimed that as civilians the Prime Directive didn't apply to them.

RAMSEY: Mistress Beata be damned! Her wish is not my command, and neither is yours. You can't force us to go.

DATA: Mister Ramsey is correct, Counsellor. The Odin was not a Starship, which means her crew is not bound by the Prime Directive. If he and the others wish to stay here, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.


So either the Odin was a private freighter with a civilian crew not bound by the Prime Directive or it was a Starfleet freighter with a Starfleet crew not bound by the Prime Directive. In the first case it proves there are private interstellar ships in the era of TNG, in the second case it proves that not all Starfleet interstellar ships are Starships with crews bound by the Prime Directive.

More Information

It is my belief that an officer could have the rank of captain and the position of spaceship command, but that "Starship command" was a special subcategory of ship command in Starfleet.

The biography of Kirk in The Making of Star Trek says (paraphrased):

"Kirk was the youngest graduate of Starfleet Academy to be assigned as a starship command captain."

That strongly implies that a Starfleet officer could be in command of a different type of ship not classified as a Starship.

IN "Court Martial" the courtroom computer says:

COMPUTER: James T. Kirk, serial number SC937-0176CEC. Service rank, Captain. Position, Starship command. Current assignment, USS Enterprise. Commendations, Palm Leaf Of Axanar Peace Mission, Grankite Order of Tactics, Class of Excellence, Prantares Ribbon of Commendation, Classes first and second


This shows a difference between having the rank of captain and the position of starship command. Obvious a Starfleet officer could have the rank of captain without commanding a ship if he was for example a high ranking supply officer or medical officer, etc.

Earlier, in a meeting with Commodore Stone:

STONE: Stop recording. Now, look, Jim. Not one man in a million could do what you and I have done. Command a starship. A hundred decisions a day, hundreds of lives staked on you making every one of them right. You're played out, Jim. Exhausted.


If Stone is literally correct the Federation must have a population of over a million "men" (however defined) for each starship captain. And that strongly implies that a Starship is a special type of Starfleet vessel because in real life being able to captain an ordinary type of sea ship is far more common than one in a million.

Note that officers from the survey vessel Antares in "Charlie X" wore Starfleet uniforms and yet the ship had only 20 men aboard.

KIRK: A survey ship with twenty men aboard lost. No reason. Obviously, Captain Ramart was not aware of any trouble. I can't figure it.


Twenty men is a lot less than the hundreds that Commodore Stone said were in the crew of a starship. Thus it seems likely that Starfleet has many small ships with small crews that are not Starships.

  • Not your best answer. The first 3/4 is largely irrelevant (basically an elongated comment) and the example you give isn't especially conclusive either way.
    – Valorum
    Sep 7, 2016 at 18:19
  • I reformatted the answer and added emphasis to hopefully make what you are trying to explain more clear. I didn't remove any substantial text. Please edit if this isn't what you had in mind. Sep 9, 2016 at 15:52

If somehow a member of the Q continuum was willing to give you anything, you could get one with a few modifications like phasers or high speeds like warp 9.995.

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    Welcome to SFF! I'm not entirely sure how this answers the question, are you essentially saying "Yes, someone could get a starship if someone gave you one"?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jul 9, 2018 at 9:45

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